In this series, we personally test traditional online freelance marketplaces to share first-hand experiences and honest assessments of marketplaces and resulting jobs, as many freelance writers turn to these outlets to find writing gigs. You can read all the posts in the series here.

This week I played around with AOL's new beta content mill SEED.While I would love to tell you that I felt my flowering buds of income potential spring forth into full bloom after planting the seeds of my content in the AOL plot, I need to instead tell you that this plot was a rocky, barren place where none of my seeds did grow.

If you have ever used the Helium marketplace, then you know what SEED is. If you have been smart enough to avoid Helium, then here's the rough overview: SEED is a place where you write AOL editor requested content on spec, without any real direction and cross your fingers hoping you didn't just waste your time.

Why Some Freelance Writers Might Like AOL SEED

Unlike other content mills, SEED doesn't require any resume or samples to get started. You simply go and register for an account. Then, you start claiming and submitting assignments. That's it--no approval, no test, no sweat.

The writing assignments are pretty fun. They range in topics from money management to lifestyle to pets to... well, you get the drift. Article length also varies; some calls for content are 100 word tips and others are 300-1,500 word articles.

I completed a total of three assignments, one on home decor, one on entertaining and one on travel. The assignments I completed averaged .10 per word--but I saw some calls for content that were as high as .46 per word. Of course, it is important to remember that they may choose to purchase your piece for full rights (and full pay) or for partial rights and pay based on page views.

Why This Freelance Writer Didn't Like AOL SEED

The calls for content give you a topic to cover, but they don't really tell you about the tone they need. With a real client, you can interview them, get samples of writing that they like, and test out a few different tones for the pieces they request. With SEED, you and goodness knows how many other writers all rush to find that magical, mystical voice that will satisfy the faceless editors. It's like playing pin the tail on the donkey, but the donkey's assular region is about 8 million feet wide and you are blindfolded facing the opposite direction.

Two of the three pieces I wrote were not accepted and the third is still under review (a 2-5 day process). The rejection letter SEED editors send is very nice and basically says they love what you are doing and want you to keep submitting, but gosh this one just wasn't quite what they were looking for. Was it the mention of a velvet Elvis that turned them off of my article? The discussion of dusty linens and dirty pillows? I'll never know.

The Upshot

I dunno. I can't see spending time playing freelance writing roulette on SEED. Of course, after your articles are rejected you can take them off the SEED platform and post them to Constant Content or Associated Content so it isn't like your time is completely unredeemable. Personally, I think you are better off spending your time building your name in your niche through good, old-fashioned marketing and networking.

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