Chances are you've seen a funny or witty slogan printed on a T-shirt and laughed out loud or wondered why you hadn't thought of it first. Even though you generally cannot register exclusive claims to short phrases like T-shirt slogans (which would make the slogan worth more), according to the United States Copyright Office, you still have several options to sell them.
Submit your slogan to an online T-shirt company. A vast number of online T-shirt and clothing companies accept T-shirt slogan submissions, including sites like Threadless Tees, BustedTees, NerdyShirts and ThoseShirts. Each company works differently, but usually you're required to fill out a slogan or idea submission form or send an e-mail to the company with your slogan. The company reviews your slogan idea. If it decides to use and print it on T-shirts, you receive compensation ranging from $50 to $500, depending on the company. When you sell your slogan to the online T-shirt company, your exclusive copyright to the slogan transfers to the company.
Open an online store with an on-demand product fulfillment retailer. On-demand retailers, such as CafePress, Zazzle, Skreened, T-Shirt Monster, Printfection and Yerzies, allow you to set up an e-commerce store, usually for free. You choose the type of T-shirts and other clothing you want to sell and upload your slogan and other artwork. The retailer gives you an online storefront and handles the printing, shipping and customer payment processing. You set the prices, generally at a marked-up price from the retailer's base price. It's up to you, for the most part, to promote and advertise your store so you'll achieve more sales. Each retailer has different payment policies; you may be sent a check or receive another form of payment once or twice per month.
Pitch your slogan ideas to a name-brand or high-end fashion or clothing line. Since most name-brand or popular clothing lines don't want to devote the resources necessary to produce only one slogan, develop your T-shirt slogans around a central theme or idea. Brainstorm images or illustrations that match and can be printed alongside the slogans. Selling your T-shirt slogans this way has its drawbacks, however, as a clothing company can theoretically reject your idea and proceed to use it for their own gain unless the slogan is somehow copyrighted or otherwise protected.
Launch your own T-shirt brand. Starting your own T-shirt company means you can put your slogans on just about any type of shirt or piece of clothing you want. To start out small and gauge popularity, you can purchase a do-it-yourself, at-home screen printing kit, produce your own T-shirts and sell them online or locally to friends and family. To scale your business, brainstorm and develop a name, logo and identity for your brand that can be copyrighted and trademarked. Create as many slogans as you can think of that match your brand and contact a T-shirt printing company to produce your inventory. Open both a physical and e-commerce storefront to sell your shirts.
A copyright attorney or expert may be able to help you navigate this area and acquire some form of protection for your slogan.
- United States Copyright Office; Circular 34 -- Copyright Protection Not Available for Names, Titles, or Short Phrases; November 2010
- The Law Office of Paul C. Rapp; Wherefore Thou Art #40 -- The Beef on T's; Paul Rapp; 2005
- Inc.; How to Start a T-shirt Company; Leigh Buchanan; July 2009
- Printfection: Getting Paid FAQ
- Threadless Tees: Frequently Answered Questions -- Do I Keep the Rights to My Artwork?