Can you really make money donating plasma?
Yes you can — up to $300 a month, in fact.
But it’s probably not the best side hustle idea for everyone. In this post, I’ll share how the plasma donation process works, why it’s important, and how to get started–if you want to!
What is Blood Plasma and Why is it Needed?
The lives of millions of Americans are saved every year due to plasma proteins.
Blood plasma contains more than 400 different proteins, and of those, 150 are important for medical emergencies.
Even just one donation can potentially save three lives (though you have to give at least twice for your plasma to be used).
According to WebMD, plasma is the liquid portion of your blood. While plasma is approximately 90% water, it contains important minerals, hormones, proteins, and nutrients.
What Plasma Does
- Helps you fight off infections.
- Transports nutrients, hormones, and proteins to cells throughout your body, helping your cells function properly. This includes growth hormones partially responsible for the growth of your bones and muscles.
- Provides clotting factors so you can stop bleeding when you have been injured.
- Helps you maintain normal blood volume and blood pressure levels.
- Helps eliminate chemical waste from your cells. This is accomplished through dissolving any substances not required by your cells so they can be carried away.
What is Donated Plasma Used For?
Physicians use plasma for the treatment of numerous types of serious health issues. The chemicals and antibodies in plasma that enable clotting are important for medical emergencies including trauma and burns.
Other uses for plasma include:
- Cancer: Both children and adults with several different types of cancer often require a plasma transfusion. This includes leukemia.
- Developing New Treatments: The proteins and antibodies in plasma are used in the development of treatments for rare medical diseases. This includes specific issues with the immune system.
- Hemophilia: Hemophilia is a rare disorder. This occurs when an individual does not have the necessary clotting factors.
- Transplant Surgery: Certain individuals who have a bone marrow or liver transplant require plasma.
(If your blood type is O-negative, your plasma is extremely important. People with O-negative blood are considered “universal donors” because anyone can use it regardless of their blood type.)
Unfortunately, only four percent of the world’s population has O-negative blood.
Plasma Donation Requirements and Eligibility
The collection of plasma is a big business in the medical community. This is because plasma can save a lot of lives.
Making a donation is considered both ethical and noble, even if you’re getting paid to do so.
There are basic requirements you must meet before you will be able to donate plasma. You must:
- Be between the ages of 18 and 69
- Weigh more than 110 pounds
- Pass a basic physical examination and be free of any infectious diseases
- Have a social security card or legal government ID to prove citizenship
- Have the correct levels of blood, iron and hemoglobin
You may be ineligible to donate if you:
- Received a tattoo or body piercing in the last year
- Have a history of hepatitis or are HIV positive
- Have a history of cancer in the family
Though the exact rules vary by state, every donor must meet the essential requirements detailed above.
When you donate plasma, you’re accepting an important responsibility. If there’s any chance your blood could pose a risk to potential recipients, stop right now.
How Donating Plasma for Money Works: An Interview
The Plasma Donation Process
Finding a Plasma Donation Center Near You
If you’re interested in donating plasma, you need to find a collection center in your area. Your best option is probably to search online:
It’s important to understand these types of center are not government institutions. While the FDA regulates and inspects all of the donation centers in the United States, the agency is not involved with the management of any of these centers.
In most cases, an appointment is not required. The centers usually accept walk-ins during most hours of the day.
(Though calling in advance can save time, and you may be able to fill out their forms online.)
The best time to donate is in the morning because you’ll feel more refreshed.
What to Bring to the Plasma Donation Center
Make sure to bring your social security card, photo ID card, and proof of address. If you don’t have a social security card, a border crossing identification may be accepted.
I’d also recommend bringing a jacket or blanket.
When you arrive at the plasma donation center, you’ll be greeted by the receptionist. They’ll give you the relevant paperwork to fill out, which includes your personal information and complete medical history.
The details on your paperwork will be checked using the identification you provided.
Before You Donate Plasma
Prior to making a donation, you’ll receive an examination by the medical staff present at the donation center. They’ll determine if you’re fit enough to make a donation.
Your basic exam will most likely include a heart check, urine test, and reflex test. Your finger will be pricked to establish your iron, blood and hemoglobin levels.
This exam also includes a blood sample (usually a fingerprick). The sample is used to check the protein and hematocrit levels in your blood.
If you’re approved, you can make a donation now.
If You Get Rejected
If you don’t qualify to donate plasma, you may be given one of two different kinds of deferrals:
The most common reasons for a temporary deferral are if you’re still recovering from a recent medical procedure, you’re sick, or if your iron or hemoglobin levels are too low.
In this instance, the center will tell you what steps to take and when you can come back to make a donation.
A permanent deferral can be given for numerous reasons.
You may not meet the weight requirement (though I suppose you could always try and bulk up if it’s something you really have your heart set on!), or you may have a specific medical condition that can have a negative impact on anyone receiving your blood plasma.
If you think your permanent deferral was a mistake, you can try to have it overturned. This can only be accomplished with a second medical opinion.
Is Donating Plasma Painful?
The majority of individuals who have donated plasma stated the needle felt like “a very mild bee sting.”
Every time you donate, you will be required to have a finger stick to check your hemoglobin and protein levels.
The actual discomfort is very similar to donating blood. If you’re comfortable donating blood, you shouldn’t experience any issues when you make a plasma donation.
Once the donation center is ready to begin, you will be seated in a chair in a semi-reclined position. The procedure looks a lot like when you donate blood.
In addition to the finger stick, an IV and needle will be used for drawing your blood. Your blood (minus the plasma, of course) will be returned to your body through the IV.
Your blood is mixed with saline prior to being returned. This will be extremely cold and some people find it uncomfortable. You Bring a jacket or blanket with you.
How Long Does Donating Plasma Take?
While your first donation can take as long as 2-3 hours to complete the entire procedure, your next donation shouldn’t require more than ninety minutes.
Still, you do need to physically be at the location–it’s definitely not a passive income idea.
Risks and Side Effects of Donating Plasma
When you make a donation, vital minerals, vitamins and fluids are being removed from your body. This is why your health status must be assessed by medical professionals before you are approved for a donation.
If you’re showing any visible signs of something wrong such as a disease or an addiction, the medical technician will recommend receiving medical treatment–and you won’t be allowed to donate.
Still, even if you’re in good health and approved by the technician for donation, there are potential side effects. A plasma donation does have an impact on your body. You won’t leave feeling the same way you did when you first arrived.
How to Prepare Your Body
Make sure to get a good night’s rest prior to making a donation. Have a good dinner the night before and eat a healthy breakfast the next morning.
One plasma donor I spoke to emphasized the importance of drinking a lot of water before he went in. Compared to being dehydrated, he said it made the donation process much faster!
You should also be feeling emotionally stable to help ensure you successfully make a donation. Once your donation is complete, avoid any stressful activities for the remainder of the day.
Your main priorities need to be rest and hydration.
Your body will need 24 to 48 hours to recover from the impact of your donation and restore normal functions to the plasma levels of your body.
Certain individuals have an increased risk of side effects after making a donation than others. If you do experience side effects, they’re usually not severe, and the majority will disappear on their own with fluids and rest.
Most Common Plasma Donation Side Effects
You should be on the lookout for the most common side effects when you donate plasma.
- Lightheadedness. The removal of plasma temporarily decreases the oxygen in the bloodstream. This can result in lightheadedness when standing up or walking around. This should pass 4-6 hours after your donation.
- Fatigue. Fatigue is common after the lightheadedness has passed. You may even require a nap. Listen to your body and rest when possible.
- Bruising and Discomfort. If the needle is not inserted into your vein correctly, the area may become bruised and painful. This shouldn’t last more than 4-7 days after your donation.
- Dehydration. This is the most serious of the potential complications. When your blood is drawn, vital fluids and minerals are removed along with your plasma. Without the correct levels of electrolytes and minerals in your blood, a seizure is possible. This is why it’s so important to drink a lot of fluids all day long once you have donated.
- Site Infection. You must adhere to the aftercare instructions because there’s a possibility of developing an infection at the needle site.
One of the least common side effects is a reaction to the citrate, the anticoagulant used to prevent your blood from clotting during the procedure. Some donors have a reaction such as a tingling sensation around the mouth and nose or in the fingers. If the case is severe, there can be a slowing or rapid pulse, shivering, shortness of breath or twitching.
The signs to look for include:
- Tingling or numbness in the toes, fingers and lips
- Metallic taste
- Muscle twitches
- Vibrations all over the body
- Shortness of breath
- Slow or rapid pulse
These symptoms can become severe if not treated. The severe symptoms include:
- Cardiac arrest
- Irregular pulse
Are There Long Term Side Effects of Donating Plasma Frequently?
If you donate plasma frequently (or are planning to), you’re probably wondering if there are any long-term side effects.
Although your body replenishes your plasma very quickly, long term side effects can include blackouts, fatigue, weight loss, dehydration, rubbery legs, and pains.
The worst-case scenario, while rare, is hypocalcemia. This condition can be fatal. Some individuals experience tingling, fainting, numbness, seizures, or muscle contractions.
Depleting your calcium can be very dangerous, leading to serious health conditions. This includes heart arrhythmias, osteoporosis, breathing issues, chronic kidney issues, seizures, eye strain, and brittle bones.
Super Important Disclaimer: consult your doctor before entering any sort of plasma donation routine!
How Often Can You Donate Plasma?
Some centers allow you to make two donations per week, while others restrict you to one donation per month. Limitations have been set by the FDA for plasma donations to ensure the safety and health of the individual.
How Much Money Can You Make Donating Plasma?
You’ll typically be paid between $20 and $50 for each donation, and depending on how often you go, you can earn as much as $300 per month donating plasma.
Overall, that might work out to around $20-30 an hour.
Why does plasma donation pay and blood donation not? The plasma procedure pays because it is more involved and requires more time.
(If you’re afraid of needles, this obviously isn’t the best way for you to make extra money.)
The actual amount depends on how much you are being paid and how often you are making your donations.
Before you make a donation, look on the Internet to see if you can find any coupons for first-time donors. Some of the centers provide coupons as an additional incentive to make a donation:
How Do You Get Paid?
The majority of donation centers will give you either a debit card or a prepaid gift card to make the process as smooth as possible.
I think that’s pretty annoying–I’d prefer just to get cash–but understand why they do it that way.
Is Your Plasma Donation Income Taxable?
There’s actually a lot of debate on this subject!
According to the IRS, your donation is classified as a non-cash gift and does not have to be reported as a part of your income.
(Though some donors or would-be donors insist the income is taxable, none of the donors I talked to mentioned receiving 1099s for their donations or reporting their income.)
However, don’t consider this tax advice and be sure to consult with your accountant for a more definitive answer.
Is Donating Plasma Ethical?
Look, it’s your blood and time. You should be able to do what you choose with your own plasma.
On top of that, you’re helping save lives. The bottom line is, yes a plasma donation is considered ethical.
The only scenario I can thank of that would be unethical would be if you knowingly didn’t meet the donation safety requirements and attempted to donate anyway.
Then you’re putting lives at risk — and for what? To make a few extra bucks?
Can You Donate Plasma for Free?
If you’re uncomfortable accepting payment for your plasma donation, you can make a donation for free. (Or you could always donate your earnings to charity.)
Some people are not comfortable donating without knowing where or how their donation will be used. If this is how you feel, there are centers accepting donations strictly for medical purposes and saving lives.
In most cases, you’ll only be able to make one donation every 28 days.
Remember, every donation you make can potentially save three lives. That’s worth a lot more than whatever payment you might receive.
Donating Plasma as a Side Hustle: Conclusions
Donating plasma is certainly a viable option to earn extra money in your spare time.
However, I think it is best for people who:
- Meet the requirements
- Have a flexible schedule
- Live or work near a donation center (remember transportation time and costs eat into your earnings)
- Don’t have a problem with blood or needles
On the plus side, it’s a relatively easy way to add some breathing room to your budget.
On the down side, it can be time-consuming and comes with potential side effects. And it’s difficult to scale beyond a maximum of $300 a month.
Alternatives to Donating Plasma to Make Extra Money
What could you do instead? Here’s a monster list of ways to make extra money.
Here are some of the leading options I think might be a good fit.
Focus Groups, Consumer Research Studies, and Surveys
You can find several companies that facilitate online and in-person consumer research studies and focus groups.
If you have downtime during your day (like to go donate plasma), you might be interested in these online survey sites and apps. Generally they pay very little, but it can add up, and they’ve very easy to do:
- Survey Junkie – Earn gift cards or cash out via PayPal.
- Swagbucks – Earn up to $35 a survey with this mega-popular app, and get a $10 bonus just for signing up!
- InboxDollars – Get a $5 bonus just for signing up!
- Pinecone Research – Earn $3 for each 15-20 minute survey. They'll send you a $3 check after your first one.
- YouGov - Long-running survey panel, with data often cited in the media.
- Opinion Outpost – Cash out at just $5 via PayPal or Amazon gift cards. Each survey enters you into a $10,000 quarterly drawing.
- American Consumer Opinion – Join millions of free members and earn up to $50 per survey.
Driving for Dollars
You can do these as your schedule allows.
And if you don’t like the idea of having strangers in your car, there are some interesting delivery options as well, including:
- Postmates – Ride, drive, or walk to make local deliveries in your town and earn up to $25 an hour doing so. Here’s our full Postmates driver review for more.
- DoorDash – Make up to $25 an hour as a food delivery driver for DoorDash. Here’s our full DoorDash driver review.
- Instacart – Get paid to shop for and deliver other people’s groceries. Enjoy weekly payouts and a flexible schedule. Check out our full Instacart Shopper review here, with insights from a side hustler earning an extra $450-500 a week.
- Shipt – Earn up to $22 an hour delivering groceries and household essentials to nearby Shipt members.
Mobile Notary Service
Several Side Hustle Nation readers have reported great success ($1500 a month and up!) becoming loan signing agents.
Check the link above to learn more about how this side hustle works and why it might just be “the best kept secret in real estate.”
What do you think? Have you donated plasma and gotten paid for it?
Let me know in the comments below!