I dabbled in Chinese before I went to China. When I went to China, I hired a private tutor, found my own textbooks – with audio – and that’s when I really started to learn Chinese.
Being a language instructor, I chose my own Chinese textbook and my own tutor. I found Chinese friends specifically to help me learn the pronunciation of words that, at first, sounded nearly the same to me. For learning Chinese pronunciation, I used the same method that is shown on the Pronunciation pages of this website. Use a dictionary to find words that sound similar to each other, and then find a friend to help you distinguish between them.
I chose the textbook from Beijing Language and Culture University, also known as Beijing Yuyan Wenhua Daxue. When I lived in Vietnam, I met Vietnamese who were using the same textbook. Just make sure it comes with audio!
My advice: learn vocabulary and pronunciation before going into grammar. It also wouldn’t hurt to learn some of the most basic characters, especially the ones that are very common on street and building signs. Learning to recognize some characters, especially in these contexts, is a lot easier than learning to write them.