During a tight financial period a few years ago, I finally gave in to all the ads I kept seeing from the local franchise of a plasma-buying business.
“Make $240 a month,” the ads blared. As someone who’s been called a “fast” bleeder by technicians at the doctor’s office, I thought this would be an easy way to make money quickly. After all, I’d basically be getting paid to sit still while hooked up to a machine, right?
It wasn’t as easy as I thought.
Here’s what I learned from my plasma-selling experience, to help you decide whether it’s a good option for you.
What to Expect When You Sell Plasma
Going in, I had no idea what to expect. I just focused on the money and how I could use it to buy school supplies for my kids.
It’s not hard to get started — plasma centers advertise a lot using billboards, mailers and online and print ads, which usually direct you to a website. If you’re unsure what’s in your area, try Googling your city’s name + “plasma donation.”
I signed up online for an introductory session at a plasma center near my home. When I arrived, I filled out an extensive health history on a computer and went through through a basic physical. It took more than an hour, including the waiting time.
When it was time to give plasma, I brought along a magazine to read during the process. It was great being able to catch up on my magazine reading while reclining on a semi-comfortable chair.
The actual donation took nearly an hour — not because it took that long for me to donate a pint of plasma, but because of the time it took waiting for the technicians. They tend to multiple clients at once, all in various stages of donation. It didn’t hurt — I’m not afraid of needles — but the feeling of cold saline solution rushing into my veins when it was done was a bit unexpected.
After the process, I received $20 on a prepaid card. To me, $20 for two hours of time wasn’t ideal, but I quickly learned the more times you donate in a week — up to three times — the more you can make.
The Challenges of Selling Plasma
A working mom of two children, I quickly discovered finding time to donate was a challenge. I could go online and reserve a time, but often needed to change it because something else came up and I suddenly didn’t have a free hour or more to get over there.
I kept trying, focused on what was advertised as “easy” money. But after about three or four weeks of donating twice a week, I ran into trouble: My iron levels weren’t high enough.
I’ve never been anemic, but the iron count needed to donate plasma is a bit higher than usual. Several times, after exercising or sometimes for no reason at all, my iron numbers weren’t high enough to give. On these days I was sent home — after spending about 10 minutes filling out the computer survey you need to do at every visit and waiting another five minutes for a technician to check my iron count and temperature — without a cent.
When I expressed frustration, one technician suggested an iron supplement on top of my regular multi-vitamin. I did the math and found one bottle would cost the equivalent of one plasma donation, so I decided to pass. (I was also worried what the extra iron would do to my sensitive digestive system.
In addition to the low iron levels, I was also rejected once because I just had some ice water and my body temperature was too low. I had to wait 15 minutes before being rechecked and given the go-ahead to donate, adding to the time it took me to earn my $20.
To make a long story short, I was only successful about half the time I tried to give plasma, so I decided to look for other ways to make extra money.
Could You Make Good Money Selling Plasma?
If you have a fairly open schedule and no fear of needles, and you haven’t traveled overseas or acquired any tattoos recently, donating plasma can be a fairly painless way to make extra money.
Before your appointment, be sure to drink lots of water — being well hydrated is good for vein development, which makes the needle go in more easily. Eat food rich in iron, such as red meat, peas, spinach, iron-fortified cereal and poultry to make sure your level is high enough to give.
Remember to bring a good book, magazine or an electronic device to keep you occupied during the donation process. The center I visited had free WiFi, so you could even work on an online business while you wait.
Finally, before you sign up, go online or check the mail for bonus coupons that might increase your donation payment. Who couldn’t use an extra $10?
Your Turn: Have you ever sold plasma? What was your experience like?
MaryBeth Matzek is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin. Learn more at www.1bizzywriter.com or follow her on Twitter at @1bizzywriter.