We’re reaching out to some popular creators to get their best tips and tricks for success and better understand the ups and downs of life as a trailblazer on the internet.
This week, we spoke with Sean McLoughlin, aka Jacksepticeye. McLoughlin is a gamer and YouTuber with over 28 million followers. In addition to YouTube, McLoughlin has over 22 million followers across Twitter, TikTok, Twitch, and Instagram.
McLoughlin is known as the long-standing most-followed Irish YouTuber. His content largely consists of comedy, gameplay, sketches, and vlogging videos.
McLoughlin is also known for collaborations with other high profile gaming creators like Markiplier, Pokimane, and PewDiePie as well as celebrities like Jack Black, Brad Pitt, Tom Holland, and Kevin Hart. He’s also ventured into other forms of entertainment beyond social media: He was featured in the action movie Free Guy, voice-acted in various video games, and starred in a documentary about his life titled How Did We Get Here.
McLoughlin launched his own clothing brand, CLOAK, along with co-founder and YouTuber Markiplier; he also launched a coffee line called Top of the Mornin Coffee. He’s been featured multiple times on Forbes’ lists, including the Top Creators 2022 list. Forbes described him as “one of the richest YouTubers on the planet,” raking in over $16.8 million in earnings in 2021.
McLoughlin is known for his charity work, donating sales revenue from his product lines, and raising millions of dollars (often via live streams) for organizations like the Trevor Project, Save the Children, the Feya Foundation, the United Nations Foundation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and more. In 2022, he received a Streamer Award for “Best Philanthropic Streamer.”
In an interview with Passionfruit, McLoughlin discussed scaling his content, YouTube trends, his various roles in the entertainment industry, how he chose which product lines to pursue, dealing with high expectations from his audience, his favorite social media platform, and more.
When did you first start venturing into the entertainment industry? What benefits have you gotten from working in film and television?
I started on YouTube back in like December 2012. I’d been watching a lot of gameplay videos and I tried my hand at a couple of those. About a year and a half later I started becoming the Jacksepticeye everybody knows today. Ever since then, I’ve just been doing it every day. Except in the last couple of years, I’ve chilled out a little bit. But it was two videos every day for five years, then getting an editor, then scaling up the quality, and then scaling back the quantity. Just trying to have fun with it, really. And of course I make a living at it, which is pretty great.
With YouTube, in the beginning, it was a lot of sketch comedy, kind of like Hollywood brought into YouTube culture. People were doing improv bits and sketch comedy. Then it became a lot more about the personal connection with your audience. Now things are switching back to that Hollywood style model. More high production and high editing.
In terms of Hollywood proper, Free Guy made me feel like a big time actor. But I got to play myself as Shawn Levy wanted to have real streamers and creators. Not a ton of acting was required. Then there’s the documentary How Did We Get Here which was released earlier this year. On paper, it’s a story about my life, but the subtext is about YouTubers, coming from nothing to achieve greatness, and overcoming obstacles in your life to do cool things. What was initially going to just be BTS footage for posterity and archival sake ended up becoming this film with a lot more complex emotions in it.
When I went on tour, one of the things that kept cropping up to me was the community and humanity behind everybody. It’s impossible to be narrow when you meet so many other people from so many different parts of the world. They teach you so much about their way of living.
Also, I’ve been in a couple of games and I’ve gotten to do some voices. Does that count?
Thinking of your various business ventures, like launching your own clothing brand and coffee line, how did you choose which types of products to pursue?
I like coffee and wearing clothes. But there are definitely more sincere reasons for sure.
For CLOAK, there wasn’t a brand out there for people like me, people who game all day. You had Nike for athletes and Lululemon for yogis. But I don’t really do any of those things. I’m not really that kind of person. The apparel options that the fashion industry has given us are pretty much all the same, and the brands marketing to us don’t really know who we are. So, being someone who plays games all the time, I never really felt like there was a version of that for me.
Top of the Mornin Coffee offered a chance to combine two things that are very important to me: coffee and helping others. Everyone of my fans know that I’m constantly drinking coffee or talking about it in videos. I am so into coffee it’s crazy. At one point I was sitting thinking about what coffee companies I could work with and then it hit me. I can start my own. Top of the Mornin Coffee also works with the Feya Foundation: a non-profit organization that works to connect communities through volunteer work and aims the beans are ethically sourced, which was really important to me.
What were some of the lessons you learned from developing those products and launching those brands?
It’s really f@^king hard work. It took forever to get both moving. Ages. And I have no patience, but in the end, it’s rewarding. There’s nothing like brewing a cup of your own coffee brand, or putting on a hoodie designed for you and your lifestyle.
What are some of the difficulties you’ve experienced as a creator with a massive following? What advice would you have for other creators dealing with similar challenges?
The thing about doing this stuff is that I can do it all day, every day. It’ll still never be enough. I started my channel because I was lonely and I wanted to find more people who were into video games like I was, but none of my real-life friends were. So I found all these people online, and it’s hard not to get a bit attached to them. If your happiness is based on external factors like that, then you’ll never truly be consistently happy. Trying to find that inner peace was really important to me.
It comes with a lot of trial and error, and a lot of practice and experience. I definitely dove very far into that side of things when I started off. Doing YouTube all day every day and grinding yourself into dust is not healthy.
Also, it’s a weird one, but having so many people say nice things all the time puts way too much pressure on a person. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, he’s so unproblematic and scandal-free and positive all the time. And he’s so caring and good and kind.’ I tried to be, but at the same time, it’s kind of like you’re building me up to fail at some point. And whenever that happens, which inevitably it does – everybody gets tested at some point – then you’re just gonna fall harder.
What is your favorite social media platform, and why?
YouTube is obvious. But I also really enjoy TikTok. Yes, I was one of those people that bah-humbuged it, in the beginning. Now, I’m a firm believer and I enjoy it quite heavily. I use it mainly to post really dumb TikToks. There’s no effort in the ones I post, at all. It’s usually a dumb filter that I do something with. But it has been really funny.
What changes would you like to see in the social media landscape?
I don’t feel like I should give my opinion on absolutely everything that’s happening. A lot of people have that pressure to jump in and say something about everything. That’s happening because they get a lot of pressure from people online.
Thank you, Jacksepticeye, for speaking with us!
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