As Pharan has said, don't try and cut corners and planning beforehand will make the process much smoother.
I am working on 8-direction characters, which I basically only have to work with 5 directions
...and then I can flip the 3 'Right' directions at runtime to go left.
I have each direction as a separate skeleton, and have written a character class in my game which takes care of managing the 8 skeletons and which to display, their position, direction, movement, animation etc which after the initial phase all went pretty smoothly.
As I said plan plan plan, and good luck! 🙂