Being an Engineer

S2E29 Behind the Scenes of Teaching a SOLIDWORKS Class on LinkedIn Learning & Udemy – Johno Ellison

July 02, 2021 Johno Ellison Season 2 Episode 29
Being an Engineer
S2E29 Behind the Scenes of Teaching a SOLIDWORKS Class on LinkedIn Learning & Udemy – Johno Ellison
Show Notes Transcript

Johno is an Experienced Design Engineer with over 100 satisfied freelance clients. He does freelance design and specializes in Solidworks, 3D CAD. He was born in Yorkshire, England and trained as helicopter pilot in the Royal Air Force. Following this he studied Sustainable Product Design, before driving a London Black Cab around the world, setting two Guinness World Records. He currently lives in Kuala Lumpur and works as Freelance Product Designer. 

I first heard about Johno when I took his LinkedIn Learning class called “SOLIDWORKS: Designing for Consumer Electronics.” Over 8K people “liked” the course and I called it “my favorite SOLIDWORKS course of all time” in my LinkedIn and that post got over 3K views (so hopefully I drove some traffic to his class, it’s the least I could do). 

In this episode we’ll discuss what it’s like to teach a SOLIDWORKS class on LinkedIn Learning & Udemy, plus how to have 100 satisfied freelance customers.

Udemy Class: Master Solidworks 2021 - 3D CAD using real-world examples : https://www.udemy.com/course/solidworks2021/

Co-Host: Rafael Testai

The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical & other device engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at
www.teampipeline.us 

Presenter:

The Being an Engineer Podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people, resources and opportunities. Enjoy the show.

Johno Ellison:

So they'll say to you, make this a like drawer block, extrude this block, put a hole here, cut this corner off, and then you end up with a part that no one would ever make in the real world. So it's kind of like you learn the techniques, but you don't really learn them in a useful way.

Rafael Testai:

Hello, everyone, welcome back to the Being an Engineer Show. Today we have Johnp. He's an experience design engineer, and he offers full product design development. And he does freelance design and specializes in SolidWorks and 3D CAD. He was born in Yorkshire England, and trained as a helicopter pilot in a Royal Air Force. Following this, he studied sustainable product design before driving a London black cab around the world. You heard that right, a black cab like a taxi setting 2 Guinness World Records. He currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, and works as a freelance product designer. Johno, welcome to the show.

Johno Ellison:

Hi, Raf. Thanks for having me on.

Rafael Testai:

Of course, I first actually heard about you when I took your LinkedIn learning class, which is called

SOLIDWORKS:

Designer for Consumer Electronics. And it's got over 8000 likes the class on LinkedIn. And I call it my favorite SolidWorks class of all time. And I actually published on LinkedIn and he got over 3000 views. So hopefully, you drove some traffic to your class. And I thought that was the least I could do when someone does really good work. I think that a lot of people write negative reviews on different websites. But sometimes when someone does a really good job, we also need the world know, so they deserve their credits. So the one thing about john Oh, that I liked is that he teaches you correctly, he first presents the problems before offering the solutions we make makes it very rewarding experience for the student, and makes you remember the answer when you're presented their problem first. So welcome to the show. And right now it sounds like you're you mentioned you're in Asia. Is that correct?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, that's correct. Yeah. So thanks for sharing my course. I live in Kuala Lumpur now in Malaysia. And it's been a bit of like a convoluted route to get here. I didn't initially start as an engineer, when I was a teenager. And this is probably gonna sound a bit silly. But when I was 15, I watched Top Gun, the film. And I thought that looks amazing. I want to be a pilot. So I kind of became a bit obsessed with flying. And then I joined the join the Royal Air Force, and trained as a helicopter pilot. So that was sort of a low level, Introduction to engineering. We did a lot of theoretical knowledge of like how engines work and things like that. But it really wasn't sort of like a solid like, formal engineering basis. And then yeah, later on, I am and I left the airforce. And then I sort of was a bit lost, really. I was like 23, I was like living back in my hometown with my parents, and didn't really know what to do and kind of, I thought I'll go, I'll go to university. And I thought I thought kind of, what should I study? And I had a bit of a blank slate. So I was quite, I was quite lucky, really. So I thought back to when I was a teenager. And I thought what did I really used to enjoy. And I really enjoyed product design. I didn't really know industrial design and product design was a thing then. But I kind of want it to be when I was in school before I saw Tom Cruise and Top Gun. I kind of wanted to be a design technology teacher. And so I started to look at university courses. And I found that you can do product design. And then the more I read about it, the more it sounded just perfect for me. Like when I was a kid I loved like taking things apart and trying to put them back together. I'm sure a few of your guests maybe say that. Yeah, just sounded perfect for me. So I went to university and I studied product design and really enjoyed it there. And then so after that I am when I was at university, as you mentioned in your intro with with two friends we got this idea to drive a London black cab from from London to Sydney home. So we bought this taxi on eBay. Maybe we'll talk a bit more about this later. But after we graduated, we drove all around the world we went to 50 different countries. And then after that, when I finally finished all that and I was like in my late 20s I went back to Yorkshire and I kind of got I got a product design job. And to be honest, it was kind of dull, like I didn't really enjoy it. And I was like stuck in an office and I've had quite a lot of variety in my life before that with with like the Air Force and with driving around the world and university and stuff. And so it was kind of in a bit of a rush. And I felt like I didn't really, I was kind of thinking is this the rest of my life? I did enjoy working during the design job. But it was a company that made like one very specific type of thing. And I was just designing one part of that. So it was kind of like, it wasn't there was no variety. It wasn't very inspiring. And then one day, my girlfriend came to me, and we hadn't been going out very long, maybe like six months. And she's a teacher. And she just said, I want to teach abroad. Do you want to come with me? And I was like, yes. And then and so yeah, she got a job in KL, and we moved out here to Kuala Lumpur. And so yeah, that was we signed up for a two year contract. And that was seven years ago now.

Rafael Testai:

Oh, I see. Okay. Well, let me see if I if I heard this correctly. So you sign up to become a pilot in the Air Force, and you exit the Air Force around 20 to 23. Right?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah. So what happened was, I joined when I was 18, did my officer training, which was really interesting, because it was all different. It was different things every day. So one day might be like leadership training, one day might be like weapons training, first aid, things like that. So it was a lot of different different areas to draw on. And I was also the youngest one, most people are quite a bit older than me. So it was quite challenging. But it was it was fun. And then after that I did like basic flying training. So training on a small plane. And so as part of that, before you actually start the flying, you do what's called ground school. So that was like a six week classroom course, learning all the theory of how to fly and how to be a pilot. And part of that was called aircraft technical. And it was like learning how the engines work, how the oil pumps work, and all that kind of stuff. So it's a really good theoretical base for like an engineering base. And so yeah, I did my flying training on a small plane. And then I got sent to flown helicopters. So did another ground school, learn to fly on a small single engine helicopter that had like a little little gas turbine, so like a little jet engine. And then after that went to fly on a bigger twin engine helicopter. So that's like twice as complicated, I guess you got twice as many systems. And then you've also got a crew that you've got to direct and sort of tell what to do when they've got they can help you out and stuff. And then actually after about I think it was about three years, I've got to the second to last flight and my training, and I failed it. And so in a nutshell, I had to I had to leave the Air Force, basically.

Rafael Testai:

Wow.

Johno Ellison:

Yeah. So it's kind of this is kind of simplifying it a bit. But you basically have, it's kind of like three strikes and out. And that was my third test, I'd failed. So I had to leave, which was kind of, it's kind of disappointing at the time. And so that's, that's why I kind of found myself back home. Yeah, feeling a bit lost. And then I kind of didn't really know what to do. So that's when I kind of sat down, I thought, what do I enjoy doing? I'll go to university, and I'll do that.

Rafael Testai:

Well, I really appreciate you being so open and genuine that showing that, I guess, if you call it that failure that lead you to success where you are now. So thank you for sharing that about your journey, how things didn't work out. So, listeners.

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, go ahead. Sorry. Yeah, one thing I actually really liked about the Air Force is they're very kind of honest with assessments, so they won't kind of sugarcoat anything. If you can't do something, they'll tell you, honestly. So you, it can be a bit harsh sometimes. But you kind of really know, if you get if you get praised, then you know, it's real praise. You know, you're not just people aren't just paying you lip service, because they want to make you feel better. So I actually really appreciated that.

Rafael Testai:

I think that we need some more of that honesty in the world, some genuine solid feedback. I agree with you. So if I understand correctly, you started your product design career at 22, 23 and went to university for four years. Is that right?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, that's right. So it was a it was a four year course. So initially, two years. It was Aston University in Birmingham. So the two base years, and then went off to industry for a year, I was an intern in London and product design agency. And that was great. Because basically, yeah, firstly, living in London is great. It's pretty tough on an interns wage, but there's still a lot of cool stuff to see and do. But also I was doing different things with the with the design agency every day. So one day might be like CAD one day might be workshop. And then sometimes I was presenting to international clients. So they gave me quite a lot of responsibility. And then when I went back and did my final year, my fourth year, you could really sort of relate what you'd learn back into real world back into back into what you've done in industry.

Rafael Testai:

the last two years? Is that how it works?

Johno Ellison:

And yeah, it's not standard. It's quite a lot of courses do what they call a placement year or sandwich year. Yes, you do two years and one year industry and then then your final year.

Rafael Testai:

That sounds very reasonable. I live here in the states for about 17 years. I'm originally from Argentina, and I've never heard about that before, but it sounds very every reasonable back to going back, Oh, I wish I could have done that. But please go ahead.

Johno Ellison:

I was just gonna say I think mistakes is more like summer internships and stuff. And they are valuable. But it was really good to have a whole year away from university. And it makes you appreciate that final year as well, when you're the final year of being a student before you have to get a real job.

Rafael Testai:

So right now it sounds like you do remote work freelance doing CAD from Malaysia. Is that right?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, that's correct. Yeah. So when we came here seven years ago, I, basically, I find it really difficult to get a job. I applied for tons of jobs, and no one ever got back to me. And then I would call people up on the phone and tell him, like, call up the hiring manager. And they would just hang up on me. I think, I think mainly me, because of my accent is hard to understand on the phone here. A lot of people who speak or most people here in Malaysia speak really good English. I have no problem face to face. But as soon as I get on the phone, people just, they just don't understand me. So they just hung up on me and stuff. And I just couldn't find the job, basically. And so I thought, what what can I do? I know how to use CAD, and I've got a CAD license on my computer. So I can maybe work remotely. So I just started going on like freelancing sites and finding small freelancing jobs. And then it just kind of grew from there really.

Rafael Testai:

Wow. Okay. Yeah, learn by doing. I agree with that, doesn't it? Isn't it a little bit scary that you're first just going ahead and taking unpaid clients from websites? And you don't know maybe if you're going to be able to deliver? How's that mindset?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, definitely is a bit scary. Yeah, you learn a lot doing it, but it is a little bit stressful. So I tried to, I couldn't really be that picky in those days, because I didn't really have any, any options. And I didn't have any money. And so I was just trying to take on any client. And some of them are a lot, a lot of them were like really boring jobs, or, like they were quite badly paid and things like that. But I just tried to every single job I did, I just tried to really put my all into it. So really try to go beyond, like the clients expectations. And I think people do really appreciate that. And over time you build up like a reputation. And you get good word of mouth. People refer their friends and things like that. So after a while you get this kind of critical mass, where people approach you for work, and then you can choose to be a bit more picky with what you want.

Rafael Testai:

Yeah, like to ask you about that. How does one go above clients expectations? I mean, it sounds like an obvious question is, but any tips advice?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, good question. Actually, yeah. And what I found early on is, it's really important to set expectations. So you've got to, you've got to be quite clear about what the deliverables are, especially in things like product design, where the scope of the project can often creep. And it can often change a lot from the initial design. And by always, just even if if someone said, like, Can you do me like, I don't know, two renderings to concept renderings, I would maybe do like three, and then put them into a rendered background and things like that. Whereas I think most of their other people that they worked with just gave them like, the bare minimum, I tried to give them like to show them how it worked in the real world, how the mechanism might work or something like that, just to give them a little bit more value there, I guess. And I suppose it's sort of gets them excited about the product as well, which hopefully makes them want to work with you more.

Rafael Testai:

I see. And how does the referral thing work? Do you have to at the end of the engagement, do you let them know that if they know anyone, if they could send them your way? Or are they naturally send you people?

Johno Ellison:

They tend to naturally send people I guess, and also you on a lot of those freelancing sites you have, like a review system. So at first, I was really stressed about my reviews, because all of my reviews when I started with five star, so I was really stressed that I was going to get one that dragged my whole average down. But after a while, you just have to guess people, I guess, like even Uber drivers and people like that have the same sort of issue. They're worried that they're going to get one unreasonable client who's going to ruin their reputation. But I guess you just have to kind of made peace with that. And it's just like a risk of the job. I suppose.

Rafael Testai:

I can't help but ask but did that unreasonable client ever come your way?

Johno Ellison:

I did have a few. Yeah, I did have a few. Yeah. I what I found is I read this book is quite famous book called them. It's called How to Win Friends and Influence People. And it's about how it's about how to like, bring people over to your mindset. And it's not it sounds kind of manipulative if you hear the title. But basically, one thing that he says is try and think of things from the other person's point of view. So even if someone was being really rude and unreasonable, it was really easy to kind of want to resort to like name calling and saying, Well, you didn't give me the right information or something like that. But I tried to just be really perfect. And tried to give them what they wanted. And it's probably like a bit of a, like a subservient way of working. But it seemed to work out. And in the end, I think I think they changed their reviews up, or they've just removed their feedback or something like that. But it was only that was only very few clients.

Rafael Testai:

I see, I just can't when I saw when you were exchanging correspondence via email, before we set up this, this call this podcast, I was trying to connect dots. So I saw that in your past, you were doing the taxi, how you were all around the world on the taxi. And now that you're in Malaysia, and you do freelance work, so in my mind, I'm thinking, Okay, john doe is probably traveling the world working from his laptop doing CAD. But it's not quite the case, you're there with your significant other living there, correct? And she's a teacher?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, yeah, that's right, we did, we do travel quite a lot, or we did before the whole m COVID situation. So hopefully, we'll get back to that at some point. But yeah, the thing about traveling and working is, is great, it's great to be able to see the world whilst you're working. And I spent six weeks in Indonesia once and traveling around all the islands with my laptop working. And but the side that people don't really think about is, it can be pretty stressful, especially if you're somewhere where you can't really get good Wi Fi and things like that. So I would say if people want to do that, maybe maybe take the pace a little bit slower. So stay in a place for a few weeks, find like a little base, finally, set yourself up with a base. So you can work a little bit and then go into your tourist stuff for a little bit. And I think this applies not just to traveling and working. But I think people have probably found out over the last year with working from home, I reckon you should try and sort of compartmentalize your work and your and your time off. It's very easy as a freelancer just to work all the time, especially if you need the work if you're desperate for work. But I think it's really good to say I'm just going to work from nine to five, Monday to Friday, or whatever it is. And then just try and stick to that is really good for your mental health.

Rafael Testai:

That's great advice. But I'm thinking if one does CAD freelancing and traveling, does one really need the internet? Because for I assume that for prolonged periods of times you can go off the web and just have SolidWorks open, right?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, that's true. Yeah, I suppose the problem comes when you have to, like communicate with your clients. Or the worst thing is when you're trying to upload a file. And even if you think of something that's maybe like 20 megabytes is nothing when you've got these an internet, it will take like two seconds. But when you're on like a shaky home Wi Fi on, like a tropical island, off so many times it got to like 15 megabytes and then failed. And it would be going crazy. And my wife would just be saying like, just relax, just relax. It's not important. And I was like, but my client needs the work. But...

Rafael Testai:

Get that five star review. All right, well, going back to that your LinkedIn learning and Udemy, teacher for solo works, very successful classes that will be in the description below. I'm sure our audience is curious about what's the process like to creating and publishing a class on LinkedIn learning on Udemy. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, sure. Yeah. So the first course that I made was on Udemy. And I actually met a guy, I was on holiday in Taiwan, and I met a guy who worked for them. And he basically told me all about his company. And it sort of got this idea in my head. And he basically said, anyone can make a course and upload it. And I was thinking about SolidWorks, that a lot of these CAD courses are kind of quite abstract. So they'll say to you make this a like draw a block extrude, this block, put a hole here, cut this corner off, and then you end up with a part that no one would ever make in the real world. So it's kind of like you learn the techniques, but you don't really learn them in a useful way. So I thought maybe I can make a course where people learn real world products, and then it will help them kind of anchor those techniques to things that they would actually make in the real world. So hopefully, it'll be easier for them to remember. So yeah, I kind of got this idea. So this guy told me about Udemy. And then on the plane home to Malaysia, I kind of got a bit obsessed with it. And I wrote out this big syllabus of what a course could be to teach you all the tools. And then I got back to Malaysia. And I started making the course. And then I realized it is a really big job, like, so I kind of my process back then was I would build the model to build the model that I'm teaching to check that I can build it, no problem. And then I would go back and I would screen record building one part of that. And then I would go and do a voiceover for that part. And then edit the voiceover and the screen recording together and then add in any extra details and then upload it. So it took maybe like, it probably took like 15 minutes for every one minute video. And I think that course was 12 hours. So it's quite a lot of work to be honest. And all that all that time as well. You're never really sure if you're going to get any getting get any views if anyone's going to buy the course. So it It was a bit of a risk, but it seemed to pay off.

Rafael Testai:

Hmm. Before we talk about people watching and everything, you mentioned a syllabus that you went over. Well, could you talk a little bit more about this syllabus?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah. So I just, I basically tried to think about, I guess I had the benefit of working with CAD for maybe like, 10 years before I made the course. So I kind of knew which tools people use the most, and which will be useful to learn. And I tried to put myself in the like in the in the step or in the shoes of a complete beginner. And I thought, What's the best way you can learn, maybe start with the interface, and then learn how to do sketches, and then learn like basic features. And I just kind of wrote down all the things you should probably know. Because because programs like SolidWorks are so complex. There's probably like a load of tools that hardly anyone ever uses. So you only really need to know, like a proportion of the tools to do like 90% of your work. So I thought, How can I teach those different tools. And then I kind of made these 12 models, these 12 real world models. So they are things like a computer mouse or a lego figure. And I thought, How can I integrate using these tools into making those real world models? And then I just kind of wrote down a big, big, long syllabus and split it up into chunks.

Rafael Testai:

Hmm, very well. I'm sure that not all the classes that gets submitted to LinkedIn learning on Udemy actually end up getting published. I'm sure there's like some kind of review process. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, I think we've with you, to me, as far as I know. I think they do have some kind of editorial standards. And they definitely have sort of audio and visual standards. They say, I think the phrase they use it, it's got to have learning, it's got to have learning value or something like that, but it's listed on the website. But I think pretty much anyone can upload a course really, as long as it hits those basic standards. With some other sites like LinkedIn, it's a lot more selective. And you have to basically apply to them and pitch pitch your course to them. And if they like the idea of it, then they'll take you on board.

Rafael Testai:

I wonder what that's like, when you pitch the idea is like a Zoom live call or a PowerPoint slide you sent to them has I work.

Johno Ellison:

And for me, it was just, I was it was pretty informal, really, I was just I think I had them, I'd said I've already done these courses on Udemy. And I kind of want to teach them a project based course that gives people like usable skills. Maybe they already know how to use the basics of SolidWorks. But they want to practice it by making something real world like the consumer electronics course you mentioned. And then yeah, it was fairly informal. Someone just got back to me, and we just kind of discussed it on email. We had a few Zoom calls, and it went from there.

Rafael Testai:

Sounds like LinkedIn may be a little bit more selective on the content that gets published on LinkedIn Learning. Is that correct?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, definitely. I think there are a lot more selective on the instructors that they choose. Whereas things like Udemy and Skillshare, I think they can, I think you can pretty much as long as it does have some learning value. I think you can pretty much upload what you want. Really?

Rafael Testai:

So are you also on Skillshare?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, it's the same courses Udemy, but it's just onto Skillshare.

Rafael Testai:

I see. I think that I guess that gives you a little more social proof. When you make that pitch to LinkedIn learning. They already see that you have the course and another platform that people have responded. Well, I think that sounds reasonable. Okay.

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I think, especially with that first course, like I said, I didn't know if anybody would watch it. And I had a really bad microphone then. So I used to, I actually used to, for the voiceovers. I was in my wife's closet. Because there was no echo in there. I was trying to record these voiceovers. And I live in a tropical country. So it's really hot. So it's just in the closet, sweating, trying to record these voiceovers for hours on end. And then I was thinking, what if no one ever watches it, you know. But luckily, people dead people did get involved. And then you get also a certain like critical mass. And then you move up the search ranking and it becomes easier.

Rafael Testai:

I can just imagine you inside of a dark closet. And there's some kind of tropical hurricane going outside and try and record the class audio.

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, actually, it started raining a few times and there's a mosque near me. So every so often, there'd be the call to prayer in the background. And I'd have to pause the recording and wait until it's finished.

Rafael Testai:

Wow, what a story. So I see that LinkedIn Learning charges, maybe $45 to take your class, but you can also have a membership and LinkedIn Learning so but basically, I'm curious as to how does the finances work? Now without any specifics? Maybe as much as you feel comfortable sharing. So I'm the student I pay LinkedIn learning $45 to take the class, and how much does the teacher get? I hope that you get what you deserve, because you provide really good content.

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, well, thank you. Thanks for that. But yeah, it's it really depends on it's different for every platform. And also it depends a lot on the views, I think there are instructors out there who make like a really good living for it. And I'm sure there's many who don't make anything. I guess it's similar in that way to sort of like Twitch and YouTube and things like that. There's some content creators who are just like raking in millions. And then there's loads who don't make up, like, even beer money, you know. But yeah, in terms of like, Udemy, it's very much like a volume, like a volume game. So I don't make much per course, at all, but there's quite a large volume that goes through with LinkedIn, it's a little bit better, because they actually, they sent me they gave me an advance, so they gave me like an upfront chunk of money. And then slowly, all the views come off that, that advance, and then once I paid off the advance, then I get the royalties after that. So that's like a little bit more comfortable as, as like a course creator, you know, you're getting something in advance. Even if no one watches it, you've still got this certain chunk of upfront money. So that's, that's quite good.

Rafael Testai:

Wow, look at that. So thank you for the inside scoop on what happens behind the scenes.

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, but don't get in trouble for that. But I think it should be, you

Rafael Testai:

No, if anything, I mean, we're going to have more people want to teach things on LinkedIn. And we're going to drive more traffic to a classes on LinkedIn Learning. So this is great. In addition to the monetary aspects of teaching a class on Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning, I wonder if there are other positive byproducts of you teaching these classes, maybe do you get more clients? Or do you get to maybe increase your hourly rates? Because this gives you a more credibility? How's that work?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, I think like you said, both of those points. So I think it raises your profile, excuse me, raises your profile, so you get more clients. And yeah, you get them, you can raise your rate, because people can Google your name. And they can see you've got all these positive course reviews. But what I found really good was, often quite often, the students will ask me questions about something they're stuck on. And a lot of the time, it's something that maybe it's not directly even in the course. And it's something that I don't really know, off the top of my head, so I have to go away and find that out. So it's really helped me learn about it. It's kind of a cliche to say, like, my students are my greatest teacher, but they've kind of lit and taught me a lot, you know.

Rafael Testai:

I see. Alright, well, right now is a great time to give a shout out to the podcast sponsor, teampipeline.us is where you can learn more about how we can help medical device and other product engineering and may or manufacturing teams develop turnkey equipment, custom fixtures, and automated machines to correct arise, inspect, assemble, manufacturer, and perform verification testing on your devices. Going back to the show, and your LinkedIn, it says that you've worked with over 100 satisfied clients. And we touched a little bit before this, but any tips on how to manage so many clients so much work?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, I think a lot of those were, initially, I was just trying to take any work that I could. So I take on any job really. And now I'm a little bit more selective. So I don't have, I've kind of got like a bank of clients, maybe 20. And they don't all send me work at once usually. So they just kind of send me it bit by bit, which is really good. Until occasionally everybody wants something at the same time. And then you've just got to try. And I guess you've just got to try and like manage your time and figure out who's the most, I guess who's the most important at that time, and whose work and wait a little bit. And I just try and write down like a to do list every morning. And then just go through that and stick to that.

Rafael Testai:

I actually heard this before the episode, I was looking on YouTube, and I'm a big fan of the show Shark Tank. And I think his name is Kevin O'Leary. Mr. Wonderful. I think that's his name. And he says, one of the best productivity tips that he has is every morning he gets a he gets up on a sticky note, he'll write three things that he wants to get done that day. And he'll post them right in the in the, in the mirror in the bathroom. And he'll get those three things done before he takes on any calls or answers any emails. And you just reminded me of that.

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, yeah, I actually am. I try to been trying to do a bit of writing recently wrote a book about the taxi trip. But I've been trying to write another book. And I basically, I blocked out an hour every morning before I do any other work, just to do some writing. And then if you've got something you want to do like that, and it for me personally, it's good to do at the start of the day. Otherwise, it just gets pushed off the end of the day, because you end up busy with work and things like that. So it's good to make if you got something you want to do. If you want to learn something, maybe just break it up into little chunks and maybe do 30 minutes before you start your work every day.

Rafael Testai:

Yeah, I've heard from how actually have a friend that also published a book and she told me that it's more work than one thinks to write a book, and...

Johno Ellison:

This great quote about something like him. A book is never finished, only abandoned. You know? He just, you get to a point where you've just had enough of reading it through, I think with our taxi book, we must have read it through like 20 or 30 times, probably more. And then you check, you end up changing tiny little words and just obsessing over details. And at some point, you just got to let it go out into the world.

Rafael Testai:

What's the since we're talking about the book, I'm gonna give the intro here to the book as to how I heard about it. I saw that you follow me on Twitter, and Rafael Testai in a follow right back in, I saw that on your Twitter and your Twitter bio, it said that you're also the author of a book. And the book did not appear to be CAD-elated. So one more time, if you want to share with our listeners, what's the title of your book, and maybe share some insights on what led you to writing it?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, so the book is called It's on the Meter. And this is the phrase, we found out, it doesn't really translate internationally very well. But when you get in a taxi in England, and you say to the driver, how much is it going to cost? He always says, or he or she always says, it's on the meter. You know, it's whatever price that meter says. So yeah, that's the name of our book and our project. So when we were students, my friend came to me one day, I was actually asleep. And we we lived in a house together. And I was asleep. I think it was like 2am on a Tuesday or something. And he came back home and he was really drunk. And he was knocking on my door. And he was saying, john, oh, I've just had the longest taxi journey ever have been all around. We lived in Birmingham, been all around Birmingham, it was the longest journey ever. And then I was like saying go to sleep. It's two in the morning. And then he got this idea. He said, Hey, I wonder if there's a Guinness world record for the longest ever taxi. We should break it, we should drive a taxi from England to Australia. And then the next day, I kind of when he was really hung over, I reminded him about it. And I thought he would just laugh about it. But he he just wouldn't let the idea go. So along with our other friend Lee, so who's called Paul Lee, and and me, we bought a taxi on eBay. So we put in some money for my student loan. We bought a 20 year old black cab. And then yeah, after graduation, we drove it from London to Sydney.

Rafael Testai:

Wow, that's, that's not something here every day. And then I suppose after that, yeah,

Johno Ellison:

We wrote the book about it after we finished. So we ended up setting two world records. We set the the longest ever taxi journey and the highest altitude ever reached by taxi, because we drove up to Mount Everest base camp in Tibet.

Rafael Testai:

Yeah, I don't think anyone's gonna break that record because of Uber and all these taxi services now. So

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, that was a great, that was a great trip, really, from an engineering point of view, because when we left that the car was already 20 years old. So it broke down all the time. There was always something breaking on it. Before we went, we we did a lot of work on it, we took, like, we refurbished A lot of it. We added a winch, a roof rack, like a big sound system. But we didn't have much money, and we didn't have much time. So there was still a lot wrong with it. So everywhere we went, it would break down. And that sort of gave us these, like, quite real world engineering challenges. Like we were driving into northern Iraq, and, like to Kurdistan in the North of Iraq, and our radiator blew, it was and it was this was like in the desert in, I think it was June. So it was really hot. And we were just like by the side of the road in Iraq, thinking what we're going to do where we're going to find like a replacement radiator for like a 20 year old London taxi in in the desert of Iraq. And eventually, we found this like it was called an auto bizarre. It was like a big meeting of like, mechanics and stuff. It was like a big area where all the mechanics worked. And we drove up and we explained it to this guy. And basically, before the car even cooled down, he had he had the bonnet up, he had on unscrew the radio, the old radiator, it pulled it out and just like steam, water and stuff. And he just kind of looked at it. He just like squinted, you didn't take any measurements or anything he got on, he got another radiator, but it had all the wrong like inlet and outlet pipes. So he cut those off with an angle grinder. And then he just welded on some new ones in exactly the right place. And he slotted it into our car, and it fitted perfectly. And he didn't take any measurements or anything. He just looked at it and did it. And then he charged us like $40 or something. So that was pretty amazing. But often we were, we were like we didn't have that much help. We were kind of stuck places. And we had to solve problems on our own really, and that. And when you get that kind of mindset, you think that you realize that every problem can be solved. You've just got to look at it in a certain way. And it's really, it's good to sort of take that through to product design and development as well.

Rafael Testai:

I'm thinking just how insightful this conversation is. And how that translates on over to the world of engineering. It's like you set yourself up to become a successful engineer by having that mindset.

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, I suppose so. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Another one was we were we were in Laos in the jungles of Laos, in Southeast Asia. And we driving along and suddenly the car we were just in the jungle. There was like a real is not like a dirt track, but it was a really bad road with big potholes. And suddenly the car like had this massive screeching noise, like pulled over to the left. And then we stopped and we took the front wheel off and had a look. And we'd lost this little clip that holds the brake pads in. So the brake pads had got like wedged against the brake disc. So it was like how do you front left wheel on the front left brake on the whole time, so we couldn't drive. And we looked around and there was just like, there was nothing there. It was just jungle. And it was it was monsoon. So it was raining loads. And so we thought we're just gonna have to walk. We didn't, we don't have to fix it, we're just gonna have to walk and try and find a village or something. So I set off walking a walk for ages. And then I found this little village and it was just like, it was like, literally like bamboo huts. And then the last there was maybe like 20 huts. And then the last one was a mechanic's, luckily. And I walked up to him. And so this guy just walked out of the jungle in like denim cutoffs and started talking to me, talking to him in in English. And I was saying, when I was trying to say we need these clips, and I was pointing, pointing at the same part on a different car. And he was just saying, No, no, can I can't do it. And then so I was like, well, we need to we need to fix this problem. Otherwise, we can't drive anywhere. So I just kind of pointed that he's tools. And I said can I use your tools. And he like just shrugged. And then so I looked at his like workshop, and he had all this scrap metal. And I was trying to find a piece that was the same thickness as this clip. And I couldn't find any anywhere. And then I looked in his trash can. And I saw this coffee tin ham. So I got that out that was a perfect thickness. And so I chopped that up using like 10 snips and an angle grinder. And then I bent it to the right position. And then I drilled these holes in it. And the drill was just like, it was just like, it didn't have a plug on it. He just had to bear wires. The went into like directly into a plug socket. And it was raining loads and had like a metal body the drill. And so I felt like pretty uncomfortable using that. But we made this clip and then walked back to the car and put it in and it worked. And it worked for like the next 10,000 miles. And then we sort of drove up to the guy drove up to his village and then waved at him from the from the taxi and pointed it at the clip and said thanks. And he was just like standing there with his mouth open. But it really taught me a lesson that like, so we didn't have the right part. So we thought, I've got to get hold of the part somewhere. So we went to a mechanic and they said we don't have it. So I said alright, can we can we make it? And then, you know, if they don't have it, we've got to make it. And then I couldn't find the right material. So I thought, what can we use instead? And then we found something that did work. And then yeah, we just made it by hand. So you've sort of just got to, when you're in that situation, you've just got to break it down into steps. And you've got to figure out a solution, I suppose,

Rafael Testai:

Were your other two friends also very good mechanics or no?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, the real the real hero is my friend Lee. He's, he's not a mechanic, but he just can fix anything. He's um, he's actually got a battery come, he makes them. He's got a battery company in the UK called Petalite. And they make batteries and car charges for electric cars. And he's just like an engineering genius. He would be a good guest for you. Actually, I'll put you in touch after this. But he was he just knew kind of intuitively how to fix loads of things. And he was really conscientious as well, which is I think is a good trait for an engineer. So often I would be tired. And I would say I'll just leave that. But it doesn't matter. Doesn't matter if that little bits broken. And he would be really like conscientious about fixing everything, and making sure everything worked properly.

Rafael Testai:

So I guess the word conscientious is synonymous with paranoid.

Johno Ellison:

Maybe meah, I think he just um, I think he just like, he likes to do a very good job. And not that I know that I don't, I don't want to like talk myself out of work here. But he would like really go beyond. Even if most people would think a little detail wouldn't matter he would get he would do it even if it took him hours.

Rafael Testai:

I see. So what is conscientious? Right? Yeah, yeah, I know someone on our Pipeline team that I work with closely. His name is Brandon. And he's very conscientious. He always looks at little details and catches small things that others are I may not catch. So I always appreciate working with him.

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, it's a great quality for an engineer. Exactly.

Rafael Testai:

And I've learned a lot from him from working with him. And I've incorporated that myself, as I'm sure you have from working with your friend to with Lee.

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Yeah.

Rafael Testai:

All right. Let's see, going back to the freelance designer here. How about just a couple last questions. It sounds like when you go your clients, the freelance website helped funnel these clients. So you didn't have to do much of our sales efforts. Is that correct?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, that's right. Really, I still use those freelancing sites a bit. I know that there's a lot of people who are kind of established product designers or freelancers or freelancers in a lot of industries. They really don't like those sites, because they say it's like a race to the bottom, in terms of wages and things like that, you know, they say that they push wages really low. But I think that as long as you, as long as you set what you think you're worth, you can choose whatever wage you want, you don't have to accept those low paid jobs. So I think there is a place for those kind of sites. But in terms of the sale, what happens usually is the client will list their job. And then people will apply with a proposal. So they might get like 20, or 50 proposals. And I think, I think what you have to do with the proposal is you have to show the client, the value that you're going to give to them, instead of trying to sell yourself you have to, you have to like sell the solution. Because they're probably not really that interested in you. As a person, you know, they just want a solution to their problem. until they get to know you, I guess. So you've got to like read their job posting, you got to kind of understand what they want. And then right how you are relevant and how you will help them solve their problem.

Rafael Testai:

That's really good insights for the freelancers listening, you mentioned about being selective on your work, and you having a pool of about 20 different people or companies that reach out to you when they need something done. And thankfully, they do it little by little and one at a time. But when when they owe, we're more than one does it and you really can to take on the job. How do you tell them that you can't take on the job? Or they have to wait? How do you do that?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, I find this quite difficult, because I hate keep keeping people waiting. If they want work done. I guess I just have to prioritize, or maybe sometimes say I can do two hours on your job today. And then I have to do the rest tomorrow, or something like that. And luckily, they're very understanding. And what I found with freelancing is, I thought this was kind of counterintuitive at the time. And that maybe if you think about it kind of makes sense. I found that as, as I put my rate higher, I got much better quality clients. And they were just like, much more relaxed, and the communication was better. They didn't like nickel and dime you over every little thing. And so maybe maybe that's a tip for some people just don't don't like lowball your rate, and make sure you've got a rate that you're comfortable with. And that it might actually help you out with better clients.

Rafael Testai:

Not to create a lot of self competition for yourself. But I think that there's quite a bit of well, maybe not a lot. But there there's a substantial amount of people are trying to the freelance CAD, and maybe they haven't been they haven't been successful as your your you're an outlier, that you've been really good at this. I think somebody needs to write a book about what it's like to freelance CAD and lessons learn things that recommend, what are your thoughts on that?

Johno Ellison:

Yeah, I think that might be valuable. Yeah. I'm just trying to think about the kinds of things that you would that you would teach. I've hired some freelancers in the past to do work for me. And I found that a lot of them are really good. A lot of them are amazing. But I found that some of them just don't don't really get basic things like communication and deadlines. So they'll say, they'll say that they'll finish the project by a certain time, and then they just won't get back to you. And it will be late. And that's fine. Like, people missed deadlines in work, you know, things happen. Things take longer than you expect, or you have an emergency. That's absolutely fine, as long as you communicate it. And so I think some really important things, which I always thought were quite basic, but apparently not so much, is just communicate well, and try and stick to deadlines.

Rafael Testai:

communicate well and more More specifically, like you said, yeah, the deadlines. Let people know if a deadline won't be met, the sooner the better. So people can plan around you correct? Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Okay. Well, this has been amazing. Is there anything that we haven't discussed that you'd like to talk about?

Johno Ellison:

No, I think that's it. I was listening to this isn't really a question or anything. But I was listening to one of your previous episodes. And at your your co-host, Aaron was saying that every time he picks up an object, his wife is always making fun of them, because he's looking at it, like from a manufacturing point of view. And he's like, looking at all the different angles and thinking how it would have been made. And I just wanted to say my wife does exactly the same thing with me. She's always laughing. So maybe that's just the thing engineers do.

Rafael Testai:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I'm actually the co-host. And Aaron is the main, the host of the show, Aaron Moncur. And that's correct. I remember listening to that episode, too. But yeah, it's been amazing having you everyone listening to this, go ahead and check out the description show notes. For this episode, I will hyperlink the classes by Johno, which I highly, highly recommend that you take if you're a big fan of SolidWorks and doing freelance work. And thank you so much for being on the show.

Johno Ellison:

Thanks for having me. It's been really great.

Aaron Moncur:

I'm Aaron Moncur, founder of Pipeline Design and Engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please share the episode. To learn how your team can leverage our team's expertise developing turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines and with product design, visit us at teampipeline.us. Thanks for listening