I recently took up photography as a mean to get food on the table and escape the normal matrix of "do what your told" work-life.
As a kid, I was lucky that my school offered free photography classes. I went every week for two years. Later in my youth I was a model in NYC working with really great photographers. This combination of early hands-on (the classes) and extensive watch-and-learn /the modelling) is really usefull now, when I want to become a professional and take up photography beyond smart-phone level.
To become a professional prhotographer rather late in life, I am 51, I do two things to try and kick-start my career: 1) I joyfully join the local milleu of other photographers. We have a wonderfull hang-out at the little artsy and nerdy shop One of Many Cameras in central Copenhagen. Here knowledge and support is openly shared. 2) I play seriously. I am not nearly as good as I strongly feel I potentially can be. So I do as kid, I learn by doing it, and I feel proud even at small improvements. For inspiration, I also borrow a lot of library books with master photographers. But when I shoot, I am to emerged to do anything but improvise. I shoot in manual mode only. Manual focus only. I use a new Sony A7ii mounted with Leica R vintage glass. I recently bought a Hasselblad medium format camera too. I want to shoot 120mm film to achieve high quality natural looking greytones in portrait photography. And I just love good mechanics.