I've been producing a number of projects (both my own and for others) for about 7 years now. I follow the same guidelines with everyone.
-Make sure to set deadlines for yourself. If you don't, you'll continue to put your project on the back burner.
-Work on your own project as if it were for someone else. You wouldn't promise a client something and then not hold up to that promise. Do the same for yourself.
-In working with crew/cast that you've hired, make sure everyone feels welcome (and you keep them fed!). Your project will go smoother if everyone feels like they want to be there, and not just that they're hired to be there.
-I like to refer to the crew as my team. Keep in contact with the team in a group email and have weekly/bi-weekly/monthly meetings via Skype or Google Hangout if everyone can't attend in person. If you do have meetings in person, a pot of coffee and some sweets goes a long way in keeping everyone happy and paying attention.
-Make sure your crew knows what their position is and what everyone else's position is. You definitely don't want people stepping on each other's toes (or your own!)
-Know who you're working with! In smaller projects (budget-wise), your crew will also be smaller and probably wearing more than one hat. I've found that getting to know a bit about everyone so that conversation isn't always about the project, but something you actually know about them personally.
-Remember, it's a trickle down effect: however you, as the leader of the project, feels/acts/thinks is going to affect the crew and cast.
-Overall, hold yourself accountable. In order to get your own project(s) done, you have to put time aside for it everyday. At first it'll seem like a lot of work at first, but it gets easier with time. Delegate tasks to others on your team and things get done quicker, and you can focus on next steps of the project. Make sure that every move you make is working toward your end goal.
The ease of the dynamic link between AE and Premiere are well worth it. Tried Avid, Final Cut, etc., but nothing beats Adobe.
It really depends on how much you can do on your own and how much money you're willing to part with. I've done some shorts for $20 (bought the actors ice cream) and I did everything else. Most of the time I stick around $500-$1000, which includes feeding everyone and paying my crew. Good luck!