Great answers so far, all I have to add is my own personal experience, which is I’m sure, very much not normal.
I got into blender almost a year ago now, because I wanted to make some mods for a game I liked to play. So, I watched some online tutorials, did the Andrew Price (BlenderGuru) Donut and Anvil tuts. After that, I was pretty much ready to make mods, so I made them. I made enough of them, and with enough quality (looking back now I think they’re trash, but more on that later) that the developers asked me if I wanted to make some extra money.
So I did, at first they paid me per piece. Now, I’m paid on salary, and I get to have voice conference meetings with the developers, and I’ve had a number of my suggestions become part of the game, simply because I had ideas about how to do things that would make the game either better, or easier to make assets for.
So, there are both good and bad things though to take from my experience. The good is having experienced developers and artists to lean on for advice, to critique my work and help me make it better, which is why I mentioned earlier about how my first mods are, IMO, trash. Because now I can make them several orders of magnitude better, and faster. Also, getting paid is good as well
The bad though, is it’s hard to develop my skills further as most of my time is spent working, rather than learning. I do get to budget some time for training, and I’m doing things like the CGMasters Corvette training course, which has taught me a lot. At the same time, I’ve been working on that course for months, and I’m only about half way through it. As a consequence of “early employment” I know that it would be very difficult for me to find further work, with my very limited skill set. I know very little about rigging, virtually nothing about animation, textures, sculpting… I probably know 10% of blender, and I have to guess at that figure since I really don’t know how much I don’t know.
So I guess my advice, if you dare take it, would be.
A) Don’t shy away from paid training. It’s easy to want to just do it for free, but the paid courses are often so much better, easier and more focused than YouTube videos. You can of course follow along with CGMasters and CGCookie YouTube stuff (both offered paid training as well), but if you see something paid that you feel like “Yes, this is exactly what I want to learn” don’t be afraid of it. (Just make sure it’s reputable paid stuff, if you don’t know, as people here) I subscribe to the blender cloud which has a lot of training resources, and I’m also interested in the CG Cookie subscription, when I have more time for it, because it has some very focused stuff that I want to learn.
B) Practice, Practice and more practice. Just make stuff. I could take my own advice here as well, as I know that I need more of it, and I need to get out of my comfort zone, but until you have a job, expand your skills as far and wide as you can, because once you have a job, it’s harder to find time to keep learning.
C) Don’t think that making mods for a video game is a good path to earning money. Yeah that’s how I got my foot in the door, but just being around game forums and whatnot, it sounds like an incredible exception. I’ve seen a lot of modders come and go and never get offered money, not because of a lack of skill, but a lack of shared vision. When I made mods, I made stuff the community wanted. When I make assets now, I do stuff the developers want, to help their game reach their vision. A lot of modders make meme stuff, or stuff that’s outside the scope of the game, and that doesn’t really get the devs attention.