Have you ever been so desperate for cash that you’ve wished that you could sell a kidney on the black market just to make your financial problems go away? While selling organs is illegal in the United States, (thank goodness) you can still part yourself out for money in less permanent, and dangerous ways.
1. Sell your hair
If you’ve ever considered channeling your inner Rapunzel and letting your hair work for you, there are a now a number of online specialty markets for human hair. As with any niche product, hair buyers are a picky bunch, so if you want to monetize your crowning glory, you need to grow, wash, cut, and ship your tresses to specification. But be sure to do your research before you chop your mane in exchange for moola. (See also: How to Sell Your Hair for Cash)
2. Sell your cells
The federal government prohibits the use of blood collected from paid donors for transfusions in hospitals. However, you can sell plasma, platelets, or whole blood to pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers.
The limits on payment for blood products vary from state to state and from lab to lab. For example, I donate platelets to a university research lab. While this lab is forbidden to pay donors in cash, they will give me $60 in gift cards for movies or groceries, or pay up to $60 of one of my utility bills for each donation.
3. Donate breast milk
Healthy moms can sell their surplus breast milk for an average of $2.50 per ounce. Nursing mothers can use Craigslist to find local breast milk buyers or post free classified ads on sites like onlythebreast.com to market their milk or wet nursing services to a national audience. (See also: 5 Bodily Fluids You Can Exchange for Cash)
4. Poop for pay
It sounds like a joke, but fecal transplants are real. In fact, 30,000 people die every year from causes related to C. difficile infection. C. diff is the most common hospital-acquired infection in the U.S. Unfortunately, some cases of C. diff bacterium result in repeat infections and are resistant to antibiotics. Fortunately, fecal microbiota transplants made from donor stool have an 90 percent cure rate for the infection.
If you live near Medford or Somerville, Massachusetts, can make daily trips to the Open Biome labs, and have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 30, you could make $40 for every stool you donate.
5. Participate in clinical trials
Robert Rodriguez financed his first film using money that he made by participating in clinical research trials. You can make thousands of dollars by turning yourself into a human lab rat.
In addition to cash, if you can find a clinical trial that matches up with a personal health problem, you might get the benefit of receiving cutting edge medical assistance for free.
The downside of clinical research is obvious: you are part of the experiment, and sometimes experiments fail. New treatments are not always better than existing treatments and can come with unexpected risks or side effects. (See also: Making Money From Clinical Trials: Worth the Risk?)
6. Donate sperm
In order to be considered as a viable sperm donor, you need to fit some pretty narrow parameters. First, most labs are looking for healthy men between the ages of 18 and 35. If you have ever donated blood, the application is similar. Be prepared to share your most gruesome secrets about your sex life and open up your family’s medical history, going back four generations, to intense scrutiny. Something as minor as a food allergy can get you kicked out of the eligible pool of candidates. Also, if you have ever had an STD, even if you are 100 percent cured, you will be disqualified.
Another disqualification is no college education. Parents want to give their children a competitive edge in school. Sperm banks will pay extra for donors from Ivy League schools and donors with Doctorate degrees.
If you make it through the paperwork, you will be required to show up at your local clinic where you will submit to an HIV test, an in-person interview, and provide a sperm sample. Your sperm sample will then be tested for sperm count and motility (swimming ability). If your sperm makes the cut, you will advance to the next round of testing that includes a renal ultrasound and blood tests for a host of diseases.
Admitted donors are then required to supply, in addition to weekly sperm deposits, baby photos, personal essays, and audio interviews to aid future parents in their sperm shopping.
While top donors can earn as much as $1,500 per month for their sperm, this is not a way to make quick cash if you are short on rent. All donors are required to sign, at minimum, six-month contracts, and your earnings will be kept in escrow during that time, to ensure that you make weekly deposits.
Lastly, as a successful sperm donor, you may end up providing your genetics to dozens of children. If you sign up as an open donor, those children can find out who you are. If you sign up as a closed donor, though, your identity will remain anonymous.
7. Donate eggs
The audition for egg donors is similar to that of sperm donors. In addition to the paperwork, the interviews, and genetic, drug, and STD screenings, egg donors must also submit to a gynecological exam and psychological counseling.
Katie, an old co-worker of mine made $18,000 donating her eggs. She also got the priceless experience of helping another woman experience motherhood. According to her egg donor agency, Katie was the “high demand” egg donor. She looked like a J. Crew model and had been a cheerleader in college. She also had a kid of her own, which means her eggs were viable and her fertility reliable.
Because her own pregnancy had been as breezy as a pregnancy could be, Katie figured that egg donation would be a cinch. She quickly learned that you earn every penny as an egg donor. For starters, she had to inject herself twice daily with hormones to convince her body to overproduce eggs. These hormones made her crabby, crampy, and so bloated that people thought she was pregnant. Basically, she felt like she had PMS for two months straight. Also, it took her a week to recover from the egg retrieval procedure, a minor surgery that is done under general anesthesia.
Although she ultimately is happy with her choice to donate, Katie cautions potential donors to carefully research the entire egg donation process before they commit. While medical expenses related to the donation cycle are paid by the egg recipient, post-donation complications are not. The donor could be left with expensive medical care. Also, like lottery winnings, the money earned from egg donation counts as miscellaneous income to the IRS and is heavily taxed.