Hi! I've made two batches of soap so far using a good book and advice from the Internet. Things I've learned:
1. You don't need an electric mixer, but you will get pretty strong arms if you mix your soap by hand. Using a balloon whisk will take about 20 minutes of hand mixing.
2. Check the sodium hydroxide content of your lye. Generic drain cleaner can be as low as 50% sodium hydroxide, and all the extra crap makes for poor soap results.
3. Pretty soap requires a decent soap mould. You can set batches of soap in cake tins or bread pans, but they will turn out looking slightly improvised-looking.
4. Cutting soap is harder than it looks.
5. The finished product feels great, is cost effective and is totally worth it, but vegetable soap (I make coconut / olive oil bars) gets used up more quickly. Still, I'm on my second batch and I don't think I've bought soap for six months.