Graphic Design has always been something of a "cottage industry". Most graphic designers work alone or in a small group. They aren't licensed, and can range anywhere from seasoned professionals to a college students looking to get their career started. If you need a logo designed, or a brochure, or a web site, you would be wise to hire a graphic designer. Unless you yourself are a graphic designer, chances are whatever you design will do more harm than good to your professional image. And hiring a graphic designer isn't really all that difficult.
If you've ever hired anyone to mow your lawn, you know how to hire a graphic designer. Ask what their hourly rate is and how long it will take. If they don't have an hourly rate, and they don't know how long it will take, don't hire them. Keep looking.
If you hire a graphic designer (or someone to do your lawn) by saying, "just get started on the project and charge me whatever's fair", you are asking for trouble. If you want someone to do a good job, and be accountable to you, be clear about payment. Many talented graphic designers have a very strong "artistic temperament", but that doesn't mean they should be unbusinesslike. If they are, don't hire them.
Asking a graphic designer to "come up with a few designs" for your project before you hire him is like asking a singer to "sing a few songs" for an audience. If they've never done it before, you may get a free sample, but a professional doesn't perform for free. Of course, some graphic designers will work for free, but if you ask them to, maybe you're not a very nice person.
I've been doing graphic design for over twenty years now. I designed the logo that I use for my business, Brad Hall Art, in college. I have made my living doing graphic design, and the experience has been, and continues to be a positive one. If you have a business, hire a graphic designer. Hold on to them, they're valuable.
If you would like to learn Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or Dreamweaver, please contact me. I do personal on-site training sessions in the Phoenix, Arizona area.