I solder SMT regularly, although not very complex ICs. My record is soldering the MCP23017, that has 28 pins
I always order a stencil with my PCB designs, what simplifies the process of putting the solder paste in the right places, but if it’s not available, you can proceed without it. It’s convenient but not needed.
Initially I tried with “lead free” solder paste, but all my plastic connectors got toasted due to the higher melting point, so i changed to a more toxic solder paste
For the pick & place process, a good magnifying glass is very convenient too. Precision tweezers should be in the list too.
Next step is flowing the paste. I have a cheap chinese reflow oven that works OK for me:
Perhaps you could find some place (Makerspace??) where you can access this kind of devices. You also can build your own “reflow oven” with a small&cheap electric oven, arduino-like stuff and some tweaking. There are good tutorials out there.
After the reflow process, i check every part with the magnifying glass and remove the excess tin with the solder iron and copper-wick.
Initially it’s quite intimidating, but with decent tools and some practice, you will start feeling comfortable with the process very soon. In fact, currently i prefer to do SMT because is faster and safer (i rarely fail a PCB!).