Hi Rachel, glad you found this great site for growing healthy dreads. There are many sites out there that want you to spend money on their products, It is not necessary to do this. Free form dreads are the most beautiful, free flowing and characteristic.
Tips that I know for beginners: Watch the video on this site to learn how to do twist & rip. Your arm will be tired, so do it over a few days if you don't have a friend to help. Don't do them tight, as this is only a starter method for separating the hair. The T&R need to loosen up in order to dread. Your dread will be the section size where it meets the scalp. The T&R will be skinnier, but fatten up as the dread shrinks into maturity. I do not know how long your hair is to start, but the longer the hair, the more shrinkage. Mine started at waist length and after 11 months, most are above my shoulder. Didn't see that coming!
It is recommended to first wash with the baking soda recipe found on this site. The reason for this is that it is a no rubbing wash system, so you will not be disturbing the beginning of the dreading process. 1/2 cup baking soda to 5 cups water works for just about all. For drying, I learned that using a micro fiber towel/Shamwow towel takes hours off my drying time, as I do not like to use blow dryers. (Use cool setting on blow dryer only if using)
Let your hair naturally separate for a couple of weeks before you twist & rip. Divide any sections thinner if wanted. Never larger than a 25cent coin, as they take longer to dry and will be heavier in the long run.
Dreads should not get stiff during the first few months, if they do, then you probably have a washing residue in the dreads. Use an anti residue shampoo on the dreads if this happens, but it should not be used more than 3 times a year, as it is strong, but works great. Dreads are a learning process.
Invest or make yourself a tam. The hair goes through very messy stages during the first year of the dreading process. Sometimes you will have the need to cover up the mess when you get groceries etc. Some days I did not care, other days I had the witch look, so I just covered them up.
Above all else, give yourself a 5 year view on what you want your dreads to look like. Have expectations that to get that look will take time. Don't give in to wax or anything else to falsely give the look of dreads sooner. With patience, patience and patience you will have beautiful dreads that will last a lifetime. Family and friends may give looks or comments during the first few months, brush it off with the knowledge that you will soon have amazing locks.
All the best to you, welcome