An essential part of the FIRE (financial independence retire early) movement is to increase your income so that you can maximize the amount of money you set aside for retirement. A majority of people spend their time at a typical 9-to-5 job, and this serves as their primary source of revenue. Outside of these hours, it can be challenging to increase your income further. Some people opt to start their own business or work part-time at a lower-paying job.
While these are viable options, they aren’t always realistic for every person. A great alternative is to take on a side hustle. Some side hustles require more effort and commitment than others, so you need to find one that works for you.
Donating plasma requires just a few hours of your time, and it can produce some valuable extra money. Some people shy away from this side hustle, as they aren’t sure how it works or if it’s right for them. Here, we will outline exactly how to donate plasma and help you determine if its the right side hustle for you on your FIRE journey.
What is Plasma?
Whole blood and plasma are often confused. Donating plasma is not the same thing as donating blood. It’s also often confused with blood platelets, which is the main blood clotting factor.
Plasma is a component of your blood that’s mostly composed of water. However, the rest of its composition consists of essential antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and proteins. To the eye, it appears as a yellowish liquid.
Plasma is essential for carrying out the following tasks in your body:
- Fighting off infections
- Ceasing bleeding when you sustain a wound
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure and blood volume levels
- Eliminating chemical waste from your cells
- Transporting proteins, hormones, and nutrients to your body’s cells
- Provides those with all blood types with clotting factors
If you are in good health, your plasma levels will generally be normal. When a healthy person donates their blood plasma, they can help patients:
- With certain types of cancers including leukemia
- With hemophilia
- Who require bone marrow or liver transplants
- Who have experienced severe burns
Who is Eligible to Donate Plasma?
Not everyone is eligible to donate plasma.
Before you can make a plasma or blood donation, you must:
- Be between the ages of 18 and 69
- Be in general good health
- Weigh at least 110 pounds
- Have no infectious diseases
- Pass a basic physical where a phlebotomist or other medical staff will take vitals like your temperature and heartbeat
- Have adequate levels of blood, hemoglobin, and iron
- Normal levels of white and red blood cells
- Some facilities may require you to do a moderate physical exam
- Most will require you to do a health screening as well as answer some medical history questions
These are all general donation requirements you must meet if you would like to donate plasma. There may be some local or state laws that affect your ability to give. For example, the minimum age in Nebraska is 19, not 18, to make a donation. New Jersey, South Carolina, and North Carolina also have some restrictions. Research the requirements/laws in place in your area before you settle on plasma donation as a side hustle.
No matter the plasma center you go to, you will likely be ineligible to give plasma if:
- You’ve received a body piercing or tattoo within the last year.
- You are HIV+ or have a history of hepatitis.
- You are taking certain medications.
- You have recently had surgery.
- You have lived overseas for a prolonged period.
- You have a history of certain cancers in your family.
Disclose any of this information or other relevant details to your collection center. If you suspect that your plasma may pose a risk to a recipient, do not donate.
How to Donate Plasma
Once you’ve determined that you’re eligible, you can start the donation process. For new donors, you’ll want to be sure you read the entirety of this post – this method isn’t just easy money.
We’ll walk you through exactly how to donate your plasma, from finding the right collection center to bringing the correct paperwork.
Where to Donate Plasma: Find a Plasma Collection Center Near You
To get started with the donation process, you must find reputable donation centers in your area. Start by finding your closest donation center by zip code, or by doing a quick google search for plasma centers near you.. You can also ask friends, families, and colleagues if they have any recommendations.
Implement These Tips Before You Donate Plasma
Before you visit a collection center, your body needs to be adequately prepared. Implement the following tips before you start donating plasma to give your body as much preparation as possible:
- Drink plenty of water and juice (consider something high in electrolytes)
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks
- Eat healthy foods rich in iron and protein
- Avoid fatty foods like pizza and french fries
What to Bring with You When You Donate Plasma
When you for your first plasma donation, you will need the following paperwork:
- A valid photo ID like a driver’s license or passport
- Proof of current address
- Social security card
Assemble these documents before you visit the collection center. It will speed up the process and minimize the chances of being turned away.
Some other items you should bring are:
- A shirt with loose-fitting sleeves, so the phlebotomist has easy access to your veins
- A blanket so you can get comfortable and stay warm
- A book, smartphone, or tablet that you can use to pass the time
What’s the Plasma Donation Process Like?
When you arrive, you will be asked to show identification and complete the necessary paperwork. This paperwork includes filling out information regarding yourself and your medical history. Once this is done, a phlebotomist will begin the plasma donation process.
To start, your phlebotomist will have you sit in a partially-reclined position. He or she will then place a sterile needle in your arm to draw blood. Your blood will then circulate through specialized equipment that separates your plasma from the rest of your blood. The rest of your blood is safely returned to your body, while the collection center cycles your plasma into a container for later use. As your blood cycles through this machine, you can sit back, relax, sip on some water, and entertain yourself with your book or smartphone.
While plasma donation is a great way to bring in some extra money, it is by no means passive income. It requires a hefty time commitment on your part, especially if you go multiple times a month. Your first visit can take anywhere from two to three hours because of the paperwork that needs to be completed.
After your initial visit, the collection process usually only takes around 90 minutes per session. You may have extended visit times if you are larger and have more plasma to give.
How Often Can I Donate Plasma?
The American Red Cross (United States) allows you to give plasma once every 28 days.
However, private centers often have different time requirements. Some will let you donate up to twice within seven days as long as there is one day in between the two donation days. Check with your center to learn how often you can safely donate.
Are There Any Risks or Side Effects of Donating Plasma?
Donating plasma is generally safe. It’s a well-refined medical practice, so rarely does something go wrong.
However, patients may experience some side effects:
At the Injection Site
Because plasma donation involves needles, patients may experience discomfort at their injection sites. Minor bruising and tenderness are common, but these issues should go away in a few days after your visit. Some donors may react negatively to the iodine-based disinfectant used to clean their skin before the needle is inserted.
Every time a needle pierces your skin, there will be a small risk of infection. Germs from the needle can enter your vein or surrounding body tissue. However, your phlebotomist should properly sterilize the injection site, so this risk is very low.
During the Donation
During the donation, you may feel faint or experience general dizziness. This is a natural reaction, as your body is enduring stress and losing blood volume. To minimize these symptoms, stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids beforehand.
A citrate reaction isn’t common, but it may happen to certain donors. Reactions may occur due to the temporary loss of calcium that your body will experience during a plasma donation.
Some of the signs of a citrate reaction include:
- Metallic taste in your mouth
- Muscle twitching
- Tingling or numbness in your toes, fingers, nose, and lips
- Shortness of breath
- An abnormally slow or rapid pulse
- Feeling vibrations throughout your body
If these symptoms are not treated, they may develop into more severe symptoms like spasms, vomiting, and cardiac arrest. If severe reactions occur, please contact a medical professional or dial 911.
Is It Painful to Donate Plasma?
Generally, it isn’t painful to donate plasma. The process is very similar to giving blood. You may notice a slight discomfort when the needle is inserted and removed.
Especially during your first visit, your body may feel overwhelmed. When your blood is returned to your body, it will be cold due to the saline that’s mixed into it by a collection center’s specialized plasma machine. Your cold blood may cause some general discomfort, but the feeling will subside.
If you experience any discomfort during any part of the process, be sure to let your phlebotomist know.
How Much Will I Get Paid for Donating Plasma?
Every company will have it’s individual compensation rates. You can expect to get anywhere between $20 and $50 for each visit.
Larger people will get paid more, as they have more plasma to spare. Most medical centers require a minimum weight of at least 100 pounds.
The different weight groups for donors are:
- 110 to 149 pounds
- 150 to 174 pounds
- 175 to 400 pounds
Some other factors that will affect how much money you receive are how often you donate and the plasma donation centers (or blood banks) that you choose.
Please remember that you’re not just getting paid – you’re also helping others by donating the gift of life!
Listing Items for Sale
Donating plasma won’t be right for everyone, but it could be a lucrative side hustle you can implement on your way to achieving financial freedom.
Talk with your doctor before donating plasma to ensure you are in good health and address any concerns you may have.
As long as you’re well-informed and in the proper physical condition, you shouldn’t experience any issues when participating in this profitable side hustle.
If this isn’t for you or you need a different means to make a bit of extra cash, check out our other articles for more options to make money.
A collection center will typically pay you in the form of a prepaid debit card or rewards points that you can redeem for merchandise or cash.
Besides physical compensation, some benefits of plasma donation include:
- You can feel good about making a positive impact in the lives of sick patients.
- You can go to a collection center on your own time and be taken without an appointment.
- If you choose to donate regularly, you will be encouraged to drink more water and alter your dietary habits.
Find First-Time Donor Coupons
After your initial visit, you won’t qualify for these types of coupons. However, you should take advantage of them the first time you’re a donor.
Search online for the most valuable coupons that haven’t expired for the centers in your area. Some centers will offer a coupon for $5 or $10 additional dollars on your first donation. Others may provide a large lump sum of cash for your first several donations.
Is Donating Plasma Ethical?
Donating plasma is generally considered ethical. Some people shun those who partake in this side hustle because they see it as greedy and self-interested.
It’s your blood, so you should be allowed to do what you please with it. Plus, the donation process can save up to three lives per donation, so you are helping people with life-threatening diseases and receiving money for your gift. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
There are plenty of ways in which you may be able to help save lives. Kidney transplant recipients, those who experienced traumatic blood loss injuries or those who need blood transfusions are just a few examples of how you may be able to provide life saving support and get compensation for it.
However, donating plasma can become unethical in some cases. For instance, if you know that your physical health disqualifies you from giving, but you choose to do so anyway, you may put a potential donor at risk.
Before donating, you should be aware of the following realities of plasma donation:
- The company you are giving to will be making a profit
- You won’t know what product the company will be making with your plasma
- You won’t know the name of the business that’s receiving your plasma
As long as you accept these realities, you should be able to make a plasma donation with peace of mind.
You Can Also Donate Plasma for Free
They view the gift of saving lives as enough compensation for their plasma. Collection centers will allow you to give plasma for free if you choose to do so.
Have you ever donated plasma for money? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments!
Sam uses her BS in Finance and MBA to help others get control of their finances through budgeting, saving, investing, side hustles, and travel hacking. Due to following the FIRE Movement’s principles, she was able to quit her high-stress job in the financial services industry in July 2019 to pursue her side hustles. She is now a full-time entrepreneur and blogger. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her dog “Simba” and traveling with her husband, John.