I've found that parts of 0805 size and SOIC pitch can be soldered OK with small amount of magnification, using fine tip soldering iron and solder. I tried some other techniques like solder paste and heat gun without consistent success, what really kicked my SMT into high gear was buying a cheapish stereo microscope, with wide field x10 eyepieces. With practice I can do QFP and TSSOP without problem, I am moving to 0603 part also.
That's ok for 1 offs, I wouldn't want to make multiple boards with that method. I think solder paste and reflow oven (toaster oven) is the way to go there.
I think without an effective SMT technique and cheap PCBs from China I would be doing a lot less hardware projects. I've nothing against DIP and 0.1 stripboard, I spent many a year building those, but now most of the chips I am interested in are not available in 0.1 packages.
Btw, Microchip do a USB-serial chip in SOIC package, MCP2200, which is pretty handy.