I've noticed in some tutorials that when using the pen tool to create curves it is - click and drag and then clicking to another point and the curve is made. I find myself clicking on one point first and then clicking and dragging on the second point to make the curve. I am wondering whether there is a difference in the methods in affecting the curve?
Yes there is a difference. When youdrag a handle you are defining a tangent and its length. This length defines how fast your curvature changes at that point. Just clicking means no tangent, and the point is a saddle. Ideally for a cubic bezier, you would have a tangent in both ends. So you should drag in both ends.
As a alternatively (in illustrator) use the curvature tool, (in inkscape use a spiro curve or if your application allows it use a quadratic bezier insted.