What you’re suggesting sounds like spec work. Here are two articles that discuss that phenomenon:
Why Speculative Work is Unethical
by Habib Bajrami
In their own words, why these designers are against Speculative Design Competitions
Here is an article about those bargain-basement, online “logo factories”:
The Logo Factor
by Steve Douglas
As for the example flat fee of $250, let’s do the math. Let’s assume that my hourly rate is $25 (it’s actually substantially more). Your fee buys 10 hours of my time. 10 hours to produce, from our first interaction to the finished product, your company identity, which will serve to represent you in all contexts for a long time to come. In addition to actual design time, this fee has to cover:
- all client/designer communication (phone, email, etc.)
- research (your company, mission, product/service, as well as your competition)
- all supplies (such as printing comps, and any books I buy just for this project)
So, let’s assume for the sake of simplicity, that all our communication takes 1 hour total, my research takes 1 hour, and I spend $25 on supplies. That leaves me with 7 hours for brainstorming, sketching, initial presentation, revisions, refinements, and final product. Under these circumstances, I would obviously skimp whenever I could, perhaps pulling out old rejected concepts from previous projects, or designing a logo that’s a modification of something I saw in a design annual, or going with a visual cliche because it’s easy. Why? Because you should expect to pay more than that for such a critical component of your business.
If you’re serious about you company, be prepared to take your identity seriously. Don’t expect to find someone by trolling this board. Try posting on aigadesignjobs.org or creativehotlist.com instead (where you can also find designers’ portfolios). Put out an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) and have designers submit their resumes and portfolios in response to a detailed brief. Also, expect that your final product will be a logo (perhaps in variations for different applications) as well as a system for all your basic needs (business card, stationery, etc.). These materials all need to speak the same language, and you’ll want one designer or firm to handle all of them. You may also want to get a standards manual explaining how the identity is to be used in the future, to make sure that subsequent materials are consistent.
Good luck to you.