Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where—in partnership with global creator company Jellysmack—we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
Greg Francis was 19 when his friend’s irate boss showed up at his front door.
Said friend had met a girl and gone incommunicado, and his boss was, to put it frankly, pretty pissed off.
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Francis couldn’t help–at least, not with locating his friend. But when the boss asked what he was going to do now that he had no one to work the day’s jobs, Francis’s obvious answer was, “Well, I’ll work.”
You don’t become a pro sealcoater in one day, so all Francis did was lug around buckets of sealants for the guys who knew what they were doing. By the time the day wrapped, though, the boss was so impressed that he paid Francis $100 and asked if he wanted to make this a regular thing.
And a regular thing it became. Since then, Francis has gone on to start his own sealcoating company–and, thanks to YouTube, he’s now got millions of people watching him head to work every day.
Though Francis fell into sealcoating as a career, he’s also passionate about being in front of the camera (so much so that he got into a summer program at the prestigious Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City, and went on to act and model in India and Turkey). But still, it never occurred to him to make videos about his day job. That idea came from one of his clients.
When Francis and his sealcoating partner get going on a driveway, it’s like a dance, he says. This particular client noticed their rhythmic efficiency and came out with his phone to record them. That gave Francis the idea: What if other people wanted to watch, too?
Francis launched his channel Sealcoating Is Life not long after, in July 2020. He uploaded some long-form videos and gained a bit of traction, but things really took off when YouTube Shorts debuted. Since he began uploading Shorts earlier this year, his channel has jumped from a couple million views per month to nearly 20 million, and his subscriber count has already well surpassed the 100,000 goal he wanted to hit by the end of 2022.
Francis has noticed his videos bring a diverse audience. Some viewers are seeking advice, others just want chill sealcoating vibes, and yet more are wondering what the heck sealcoating even is. He sees his content as a way to meet each of these needs–all while showing what it’s like to do sealcoating right.
Check out our chat with him below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: I’ve watched a bunch of your content, but I’m sure there will be people reading this who haven’t seen your videos, so can you just give me a brief background on you and how you got into sealcoating?
Greg Francis: I’ve been doing this on and off since I was 19 years old. The story goes that I had a friend that did this. He was a little bit older than me, and I was 19. He had told his boss that he was staying at my house and he ended up not coming back to my apartment. He just disappeared for the next 24 hours. He met a girl or something like that and his boss actually showed up at my house looking for him, and he was pounding on my door.
Then I opened the door and he came up, he’s like, “Where’s Casey? Where’s Casey?” I was like,” I don’t know.” He’s like, “Well, I have work to do.” Then he was like, “Who wants to work?” Then I was like, “I’ll work.” He was like, “I’ll give you a $100 bill.” Which was a lot of money in 2004, 2005! For a day’s work, for a 19-year-old kid? And so that’s how I did it.
I didn’t even do any of the actual work. I was just carrying buckets because we were just using buckets back then. I was taking them in and out of the pickup truck and he was just screaming and yelling at me all day. We were done work by, what was it? One-thirty, maybe, two o’clock at the latest. We started at seven o’clock to seven-thirty, so $100 and he was like, “You did pretty good. You want to do it again?”
Then I did it again and then I filled in for my friend when he wasn’t there, and then I ended up working with my friend full time. Then it just springboarded into there, and now I’m doing it for myself, and I’ve been doing it on and off. Funny story, I took some time off, I used to model in the winters. I used to go to India and Turkey and I was an actor and a model, and I would come home in the summers and do sealcoating, and now I’m just doing sealcoating. I’m too old to be traveling now that I have a family.
Tubefilter: That’s such a wild backstory.
Greg Francis: I met my wife in India when I was there working, so it’s a great story.
Tubefilter: Did she move back home with you to the States?
Greg Francis: Yes, she’s Canadian. We were both modeling and we just bumped into each other on the street and we ended up living right next to each other. She had an apartment back in New York, so we were just going back and forth, and then we did a few different trips to India together. Then we had our first daughter three and a half years ago, and then we just settled in to where we are now. We’re doing the suburban Philadelphia to Philadelphia mainline. That’s why we have all these super high-end residentials, some of these places that have half-mile-long driveways.
Tubefilter: I feel like it’s a big leap to go from occasionally doing it to launching your own company. Did it just make more sense to start working for yourself once you’d done it long enough? How did that go?
Greg Francis: Yes. Eventually, as people started figuring out that I was doing this, they started asking me to do the job, and then I ended up just relaying them to my boss. I was doing all the work, so I decided to cut out the middleman. It doesn’t take that much money to get started. Me and my partner, we started with just a bucket and a pickup truck. It’s not that hard to get started.
Tubefilter: That’s something I wanted to ask about. In one of your videos, you said that there are a lot of people who give the sealcoating business a bad name and that you guys are trying to work against that to establish a better reputation for it. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Greg Francis: Yes. I even remember when I was a kid, this guy that came to sealcoat my parents’ house, and this was 10 years before I even know what sealcoating was. What a lot of these people will do is they will use motor oil-
Greg Francis: -on your driveway. Yes, really. It’s night and day from what we do. I call them scammers. They’ll come in and so many people have no idea how precise this job should be done. It should be done with surgical precision, and that’s what we do. We brush it on for these residential jobs.
You can read in some of the comments all the horror stories that these people have of people coming in and spraying all over their garage doors, spraying all over their sidewalks. They don’t even tape it off, they don’t brush any dirt spots, they don’t wire brush any oil spots out. It all just comes off in the first rainfall. Even if they’re using driveway sealant, and half the time they’re not even using driveway sealant, they’re using used motor oil that they mix with God knows what, and then they spread that all over your driveway. Then in 48 hours or a week, the first time it rains, that all washes right away, and then you’re left with a $400 bill.
It’s really terrible. Like I said, nobody really knows what sealcoating is. 75 million people know what it is now because that’s what our view count’s up to, so we’re changing minds.
Tubefilter: I have to admit, I’m from rural Ohio and we have long driveways and long roads, and I’d never heard of sealcoating before your channel popped up in my recommended. It was new to me too.
Greg Francis: There is sealcoating in all over the country. There’s companies in Canada. I’ve actually met a few people in Canada that do this. One of my partners that I work with outside of sealcoating to selling this sealcoating coursework, they’re a Canadian-based company. We’re located in southeastern Pennsylvania. People always say it’s like the asphalt capital of the world. I say it’s 1% concrete driveway, everything else is asphalt, and asphalt has to be maintained.
Tubefilter: Can you do anything with crumbling driveways or does it have to be a driveway that’s already maintained?
Greg Francis: It’s tricky. With asphalt, if it’s too far gone, you can’t fix asphalt. All you can do is fill in the cracks and try to hide the crack. Once it’s too far gone, there’s really nothing you can do, and that’s why I don’t show a lot of that on my channel. I try to keep to the driveways that are in better condition because a lot of people will come out there and put hot tar in there and they’ll patch it all. Once it’s cracked, it’s kind of gone. The best thing you can do is do cutouts and then you have to have hot asphalt to replace sections. You can do cold patching on some of the smaller stuff, but we call it “alligator cracking” when it’s all broken up like that. There’s really nothing you can do about that.
Greg Francis: It’s a fine line. You always want to manage the expectations you have with good clients and customers and let them know exactly what they’re going to get and what’s going to happen.
Tubefilter: That makes sense. Is it just you and your partner, or do you have a larger team?
Greg Francis: For the bigger jobs, I have a couple of guys that I’ll bring in, but it’s usually just me and my partner.
Tubefilter: How many driveways are you doing a week, on average?
Greg Francis: It all depends. I have a video on this. Some days we’ll do one gigantic driveway, and then other days we could do 35 in a townhouse community. I would say maybe the average is 40, 45 driveways a week on average. Maybe.
Tubefilter: Just the two of you. Oh wow, okay.
Greg Francis: That one driveway that video is of, it’s half a mile long, it took almost eight hours to do. That was just one day.
Tubefilter: Half a mile in eight hours is pretty quick.
Greg Francis: Yes. People always say, “How are you guys so…” We’ve been doing this for a very long time. You better be good at it if you’ve been doing it forever.
Tubefilter: I’ve seen your video where you talk about how somebody asked if you guys talk while you’re on the job and you said like, no, you don’t need to talk because you’ve been doing it so long and you’re both so efficient.
Greg Francis: You just eventually run out of things to say. I’m not really a chitchat guy and neither is my partner. He’s a man of few words. We do talk in the truck, but we just want to get out there and get done because this job, most of the time you’re working against the sun. I like to be done work by one o’clock every day, because after that, it just becomes…it’s too hot.
Tubefilter: Yes, especially working on asphalt.
Greg Francis: Yes. On dark asphalt, once it’s one o’clock, it’s 120 degrees on the asphalt, easily. You want to be done. You don’t want to be telling stories and stuff like that, then you got to stop to think about it. No, we just–
Tubefilter: Just get it done.
Greg Francis: We don’t even bother.
Tubefilter: When and how did YouTube come into things? What made you want to start a channel?
Greg Francis: I went to acting school in New York City. I did a summer program at Stella Adler. I always liked, I don’t want to say “performing,” but I always wanted to be on Saturday Night Live when I was a kid. That was my dream and that didn’t happen. When I was modeling, I did a lot of commercials and I always watched how they made the commercial, how they did the lighting, how they did this, how they did that. Then one time we were doing a driveway and a guy came out with his cell phone and he was recording us and he was like, “You guys are so good at this.” He was just mesmerized.
When we really get in the zone, it’s almost like a dance. We never bump into each other. We’re always just missing each other. He’s like, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” Then I was thinking like, “This is pretty cool.” I remember I had a GoPro from when I was in India and I would just take videos of little kids playing cricket or a guy sharping knives on the street or people cutting the heads off chickens or whatever I was doing.
I put it on my head and I did my first driveway. Even though that video was terrible, it still got like 5,000 views, because when I started this three years ago, there was nobody really doing sealcoating videos.
It was not good, but it was informative and it was so fresh, and then I made another one and then I made another one and then I finally bought a tripod. My first tripod video that I made, it got two million views in a matter of months and it just went nuts. This was right in the sweet spot of COVID, so it was kind of like the perfect storm where everybody was just scanning their cell phones for something to do.
I found that people were really supportive and everybody really loved it and the channel was getting hundreds of thousands of views a month and then I just kept going and bought more cameras. I was watching other people on how they make their videos. I just improved really quickly because I didn’t really know how to edit videos or anything like that. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was making it up as I was going along. All the equipment I use, I use a GroPro 7. I still use a GoPro 7 even though there’s four different ones that’ve come out since then, and I just use iMovie’s stock photograpy thing on my MacBook. That’s what I use. There’s nothing special. I don’t outsource anything, I do it all myself.
Tubefilter: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Greg Francis: Yes. I tried to get the newer GoPros and I didn’t like the way they worked. They got too hot, they were overheating, and I just said, “You know what? I’m just going to stick with what I have.” It’s just been working perfectly.
Tubefilter: How did COVID affect your business? Did it have an effect on you at all?
Greg Francis: Zero.
Greg Francis: It was because there’s really no contact. The only thing, sometimes if we were feeling sniffly, me and my partner, we could take two separate vehicles. I would just follow behind him in a pickup truck. That’s one of the benefits of this kind of job. It’s weather permitting, and because it’s weather permitting you’re working outside, so you really don’t have to worry about it. I usually wear a mask anyway while I’m at work because I have so many sinus and allergy issues, but yes, we were busier than we’ve ever been.
Tubefilter: That’s wild. So you had no effect on your actual business and then YouTube started to take off at the same time. When did Shorts come into things?
Greg Francis: I forget who I was talking to. I chitchat with a couple other YouTubers and we were talking about what works and what doesn’t work, and somebody was like, “You have to make YouTube Shorts.” I was like, “I hate the sound of my voice.” Everybody hates the sound of their voice. I made that one video and it’s called What is This? That was my first Short that I made. That had a rocket on it. That just helped me so much, like it brought me 20,000 subscribers within two months or something like that.
Doing that video, I must have spent…I’m not even kidding, I must have spent six hours doing that 45-second voiceover. I rewrote it, rewrote it, wrote it again, and then I didn’t like the way I said “sealcoating.” I had to say sealcoating. I would talk with an accent. I was just going back and forth in my head a million times, and it’s tough. I had to get the cadence. You’ve got to have sort of a rhythm when you’re speaking. I asked my sister how I should say it. She was like, “Dadadada, dadadada,” and then we’re bouncing back and forth.
Then I was finally happy with the version that I had and I let that go, and there was another rocket ship on that and it just went crazy, how well that did. It’s still getting views.
Tubefilter: Yes. I think that’s the first one I saw of yours. It came up on my recommended a month ago.
Greg Francis: Yes. That was the first sealcoating Short that I remember. That’s two years old, I think. It’s not as good as–I made a video two months ago called Brown or Black? I have a thing where I think that I made two perfect videos. I made one long video which is I think a perfect video and then I made this other video called Black or Brown? which is a perfect video where the video is perfect, the music that I chose for it is perfect, and my voice was absolutely perfect. I’ve tried to get my voice to sound the same again, but I haven’t been able to achieve it. That video just hit 22 million views in two months. I think that video got me 100,000 subscribers just by itself.
Tubefilter: That’s huge. Also, you’re not alone–I hear from lots of people that the voiceover is the hardest part.
Greg Francis: Yes. It’s a lot easier now. It’s funny, I can only do my voiceovers when I’m laying on my stomach. I kind of lay on the carpet on the floor. That’s the only way I can get that sound that I like. Maybe because I’m not using the best equipment and I don’t have compressors on my voice or whatever it is, but yes, I have a certain way that I have to do Shorts. I have to stick my neck out, lie on my stomach, and take a bunch of deep breaths.
That Black or Brown? video, I did that a whole entire video in about 15 minutes, from the editing to the writing to the recording. It was the easiest video I ever made. Some videos I spent hours and hours but didn’t do anything, but that video, it’s just…Like Paul McCartney said, “Sometimes it just flows through you.” I don’t want to compare myself to anybody else, but that just came out so easily and it’s been doing so well. I think it’ll hit 100 million views in a year.
Tubefilter: It’s a big deal to have gone from six hours on just the voiceover to 15 minutes for a whole video.
Greg Francis: Yes. Practice makes perfect. People always say, “How did you get so good at sealcoating?” I’m like, “I’ve been doing this for 17 years. That’s the only way to do it.” With the voiceover, I’ve been really going out of my way to make this work because my goal for the end of this year, I wanted 100,000 subscribers. That’s all I wanted was 100,000 subscribers. I might even get to 200,000 subscribers by the end of this year. I’ve been working my ass off to make it happen. [Editor’s note: It happened. At press time, Sealcoating Is Life has 201,000 subscribers.]
Tubefilter: What does your production side of things look like? Are you still producing both short and long videos?
Greg Francis: As far as production goes, Shorts are a lot easier. My long-form videos I’m doing now, they’re two cameras, sometimes three cameras. It takes a lot of time to think because I have a head cam that I try to sync up with the tripod, so that takes a lot of time. I have some longer videos that I’m working on now, but for the most part, I’m just working on Shorts, because my longer videos I haven’t been doing them. Nobody’s really watching them as of right now.
Everybody just says that they want the short videos. I know a lot of other creators are having that issue as well, but people just want the 60-second version. It’s like the TikTok influence that everybody has, how TikTok is just exploding into two-minute clips that everybody can really enjoy. Not really invest too much of their time in it.
Tubefilter: How often are you trying to post a video on YouTube?
Greg Francis: During the season, I’m trying to get two to three videos a week, but now that the season’s over, because we’re only a six months season, I don’t want to burn myself out and not have anything to post. For the last year, I really didn’t put anything out in January, February, March. Now, I’ll probably try to put one or two videos out every two weeks, maybe one video every week now.
Tubefilter: Got it. It’s a long off-season, yeah?
Greg Francis: We have six months off, six months on.
Tubefilter: Are you storing up content for that period?
Greg Francis: Yes. I have about 20 unedited videos that I work through during the off-season. We have a sponsored video coming out this week, too. We had our first sponsored video. That’s exciting. In the beginning, you really weren’t making any money with it, and I really enjoyed doing it. Nobody’s watching, you’re really not getting paid, and you’re just wasting your time. Now that we have the opportunity to take one sponsor, it makes it even more fun to do, more worth the time.
Tubefilter: That’s very cool. Can you tell me who the sponsor is?
Greg Francis: It’s called Giraffe Tools. It’s a pressure washer.
Tubefilter: How did you get in contact with them? Did they reach out to you?
Greg Francis: Yes, they reached out to me. They liked the videos, they liked the content, they saw the YouTube channel. It worked out perfectly. I took it to my parents’ house, and they needed part of their driveway pressure washed before I ended up sealing it. It was one of the last jobs I did this year, so it was perfect. I did the pressure washing and then I ended up sealing their driveway. I’m going to put the whole video together and it’ll be a sponsored video.
My parent’s driveway is a pretty big deal. It was pretty beat up, so it took a lot of patching–asphalt patching, and crack patching too. That’s one thing that a lot of people have been wanting to see, and I said, “Just wait. Just wait. I’m going to be doing my parents’.”
Tubefilter: Have you had sponsorship offers before or is this your first one?
Greg Francis: I’ve had other sponsorship offers, but nothing that I really thought that would work on my channel. I don’t really want to sell my soul for like…I’m trying to think of what they wanted, like stuff for your car. There was one thing that was like a wallet company. I have had the same wallet forever, so I don’t want to sell out just yet. If I can use it in a video, that’s the kind of stuff that I want to do.
Tubefilter: That’s good to hear. I’m glad that your first sponsorship is something that you feel comfortable with. Being selective with sponsors is a really essential skills for creators, I think.
Greg Francis: Long-term, I think I’ll benefit from that. When I put this video out, because it’s in the same realm of sealcoating. I like the pressure washing because we go for a relaxing vibe. People are always saying on the channel, like, “Oh, why don’t you do more stuff about the actual sealcoating side of it?” I’m like, “99.99999% of my audience doesn’t care about seal. They don’t care about the business.” Maybe they do a little bit, but they just want to watch, like it’s an adult coloring book.
That’s the theme that I want to go for. People say it helps them with their anxiety. 50% of my audience isn’t even Americans. They’re from all over the world, and it’s really cool. In one of my videos I ask people to let me know where they’re watching from, and they said South Africa, Vietnam, Japan, Australia. It’s really cool.
Tubefilter: Adult coloring book is really the perfect way to put the feeling of watching it.
Greg Francis: That’s it, the adult coloring book. People call me the Bob Ross of sealcoating, and I’m like, “Okay, we’ll go with that.”
I really didn’t know which angle I wanted to pursue with this when I first started. You take 20 minutes out of your day and just watch. That’s why I really try to go for the lighter colored driveways to contrast with the darker sealer. It makes more of a better transition, like a before and after. You can get the really almost white asphalt, and then you have the black sealant that goes on top of it.
Tubefilter: Has your YouTube channel brought any business to the company that you can tell, or is it two separate parts of the business?
Greg Francis: I try to keep it separate, but sometimes…We haven’t used it to get jobs, but for people that are already interested in sealcoating, and they have certain questions, I can always show them the videos.
That’s another thing. We don’t have commercials. Sometimes people say like, “Where are you located?” I always put Pennsylvania on my videos. I don’t put where we are specifically because I don’t want that to get in the way of anything. When people say like, “Oh, well, what does it look like? Do you spray it? Does it get all over the garage doors? You’ve got to tape it off. What if it’s windy?” That’s another thing that’s great about the Shorts. The same questions that people have online are the same questions that the clients will ask us. It goes so much further to show somebody rather than tell them.
Tubefilter: I didn’t think about that angle of it, where you could just send clients videos. That’s got to be super useful for you.
Greg Francis: Oh, yes. It’s great. We’re really going to get into the commercial aspect next year, with a lot of spraying and a lot of drone shots with parking lots and stuff like that. Those are the money jobs; you can really make money off the commercial. You can make money off residential, but it’s always better to just work in one place for the day rather than driving all over.
Tubefilter: Will next year be the first time that you’ve leaned heavily into the commercial jobs?
Greg Francis: For videos, yes. We’ve been doing commercial forever, but it’s hard for me to do the filming in the spring at the same time, because I’ve got to move these cameras 15 times while we’re working. This is so time-sensitive that you can’t stop and line up shots. Once that material comes out of the hose, you have to go, because once it starts drying, if it’s dry, it’ll smear, it’ll put footprints in, brush marks. You have to go. It’s extremely time-sensitive.
Tubefilter: How do you manage that on an average shoot, then? Is it just that you’re super quick?
Greg Francis: I’d say there’s maybe 30 videos that I filmed that just didn’t come out right. These are only the better videos that people are seeing. There’s a lot of videos where the sun wasn’t right, didn’t look good, and then I just had to scrap it. That’s why I just try to film as many as I can. You never know what it’s going to look like afterwards because you can’t sit there and set up these shots and look to the camera and adjust it. You’ve just got to go. It’s hard as it gets longer in the season, because you want the sun at the very, very top shining down, but in the morning and then later afternoon, it’s on the side and you get a lot of shadow. It doesn’t look that great on camera.
Tubefilter: A lot of factors you have to accommodate.
Greg Francis: People don’t get that this isn’t like pressure washing, where you can just put it there and move it. You can stop. You can do this and that. Once that material comes out of the hose, you can’t stop and then start again because you’ll get transition lines. It’ll dry a different color. It has to go down in one coat.
Tubefilter: You said earlier that sealcoating is like a dance, but that’s really the whole production process–the timing and the rhythm.
Greg Francis: Speed and efficiency, that’s what it’s all about.
Tubefilter: Do you have any plans or goals coming up in the next year or so? Anything else that you’re looking to get into or anything else you want to do on YouTube?
Greg Francis: Well, I wanted to get 100,000 subscribers by the end of the year, and now I want to get 200,000 by the end of the year.
Tubefilter: I think it’s doable.
Greg Francis: I wanted to get 100 million views by my second or third year, and now I want to get 100 million by the end of this year.
Tubefilter: Also doable.
Greg Francis: I want to definitely branch out and do some other things. I want to have a couple different channels, because I like to sing and play guitar and I do a lot of exercising. My wife is beautiful and I want to do another channel with our family, how we met, and do a lot more lifestyle stuff. Hopefully this will become a lot more financially lucrative. Then five, six, seven days of the week we can just be content creators. That’s the goal of everybody, right? Just to be a full-time content creator. The new American dream.
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