A very new user to Lightroom here A few hours into the trial, i have to say i am impressed.
I too used this same workflow method which the OP has detailed. I used to use Nikon Capture NX-D, anytime I adjusted the RAW file, it would just save that as I touched them and if later down the line I wanted to use the image, I would covert to JPEG, job done.
It's clear after reading this the concept behind the catalog, and how realistically mine and the OP's prior way of working isn't perhaps appropriate to make the most of LR
My concern is that I will be too reliant on LR. E.g i'm using a company laptop at the moment for editing images, which the Adobe software is now on. If later down the line i've got thousands of RAW files, how will I ever manage to back them up? Where are the thousands of images stored, is that cloud based or still laptop harddrive based?
As it's a company laptop, ideally I don't want hundreds / thousands of my images on this laptop, and i'm not sure how i feel about them being on the cloud, as i went for the 20gb trial, so i can't see that lasting for long which then prompts a more costly monthly option.
Could be misinterpreting this and there may well be a simple solution, appreciate any help anyone can put my way
"If later down the line i've got thousands of RAW files, how will I ever manage to back them up? Where are the thousands of images stored, is that cloud based or still laptop harddrive based?"
We all have that problem. We all have thousands of RAW files. You need to back them up onto a different physical drive; or use a third party cloud backup service like Carbonite (or both). The original images are stored on whatever hard disk you put them or whatever hard disk you told Lightroom Classic to put them. They are not stored in Lightroom Classic; they are not stored in the cloud.
With Lightroom Classic, even if you turn on the sharing of the photos in the cloud, the photos in the cloud are not your originals, they are lower resolution versions of your images, and thus cannot be considered backups.