About 10 years back I had the same question about what to use. Thankfully I had a mentor who provided some great advice, which is mostly where this post comes from.
For hand soldering, I ended up getting a Hakko 936 Soldering Station with a Hakko 900S pencil tip. I use this with some very fine solder (0.46mm Element 14 Link). I also ordered a series of metallic tweezers. The tweezers are essential, and you will need some that stay open and some that stay closed unless opened. They can be long but need to be fine.
When designing the PCB’s use 0805 parts or larger if you can. I recently had a PCB designed where the designer used a heap of 0402 parts (1mm x 0.5mm) and did not realise until after I had sent the PCB to manufacture. This is just too small. One technique for soldering is to put a tiny bit of solder on the pads, place the part and reflow the solder, adding more if needed.
Reflow works too, depending on what you are soldering. For this you will need some solder paste and a teflon frypan, at least to start out. Since stuff is toxic, I have engraved mine saying it should not be used for food, but then I cook my parts on the stove. I did a board which included a small bluetooth carrier board, and had a 5% failure rate, probably removing the parts from the frypan. Putting parts in and out probably needs a one of those kitchen implements to get pickled onions out of jars.
I have yet to use a solder paste stencil… Might be a time saver for larger boards.
Depending on your age, a good set of magnifying glasses might help too. Or a camera with HDMI output and a monitor. Etc. I have yet to work out how to properly use a solder rework station, except for removing through hole parts, blowing solder away from pins…
And if you are doing SMD, pace yourself. Your eyes can get sore, so don’t do too many in one go, and have good breaks.