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Switching Gears: How I Transitioned from Corporate Life to Interior Design

Had enough of the corporate hustle and craving a career with a bit more heart and soul? Let me take you through my journey from the corporate pharmaceutical scene to finding my groove as a freelance interior designer, Instagram influencer, and design tutor. It's been quite the ride!


woman sitting on round occasional chair in tropical style interior design

Academia to Pharmaceuticals: A Global Journey

After earning my Master of Science in International Business, I jumped into the pharmaceutical industry with both feet. Armed with a solid academic background, I delved into a variety of roles, from sales and marketing to strategic planning.


Travelling the globe, I honed my skills and embraced diverse cultures and markets. Climbing the corporate ladder fueled by ambition and a hunger for growth, I thrived in the dynamic and demanding world of pharmaceuticals and expanded my corporate career.


From Corporate to Creative: My Interior Design Journey

After years of pouring all my energy into a demanding corporate job, balancing the chaos of raising kids and battling daily traffic jams in Sydney, Australia, I felt trapped in a never-ending cycle. My conversations with my husband revolved mostly around family logistics, leaving little room for personal satisfaction.


corporate female joining the rat race in sydney juggling family and career

Feeling drained by the monotony of it all, I craved change. My ultimate dream? To break free from the corporate grind and become my own boss. I wanted a career that fueled my passion and offered the flexibility to work on my own terms, from anywhere in the world.


Even amid the chaos of managing a hectic career and family life, the idea of pursuing my love for interior design lingered in the back of my mind. Despite the time crunch and the demands of my job, the thought of unleashing my creativity brought a glimmer of excitement and fulfilment.


Finding Fulfillment: Balancing my Hobby Courses with my Day Job

Amidst the hustle and bustle of my corporate job, I found myself yearning for a creative outlet. Despite my hectic schedule, I couldn't shake the desire to dive into something artistic. So, about 11 years ago, I enrolled in a course with the Interior Design Institute, and it felt like a blast from the past, reminding me of my childhood days spent rearranging furniture and playing with colours.


woman drafting design architectural plans on a table surrounded by plants

This course became my sanctuary, offering a much-needed escape from the corporate grind. Each lesson reignited my passion and fueled my determination to pursue a path aligned with my creative aspirations.


I Never Set out to Be a Freelance Interior Designer

My journey into interior design didn't start with a grand plan to change careers; it was more about finding joy in creativity and aesthetics. Even while working in the pharmaceutical industry, I found myself drawn to tasks that let me tap into my creative side.


Crafting marketing materials, no matter how simple, became my favourite part of the job. I loved playing with design elements and making things visually appealing, whether it was a patient brochure or a promotional flyer. Little did I know that this love for visual expression would spark a newfound passion for interior design.


Life Throws Curve Balls

Life has a funny way of shaking things up when we least expect it, pushing us out of our comfort zones and into new adventures. For my husband and me, one of those moments came when he landed a tempting job offer in Europe while we were comfortably settled in Sydney.


Instead of sticking to the status quo, we saw this as an opportunity for me to take a leap of faith and start a new chapter. Given my background in the medical industry, venturing into entrepreneurship felt like the next logical step.


Mastering My Own Boss Status

To my surprise, the moment I announced my departure from the pharmaceutical world, my clients started reaching out with project management opportunities for their clinical trials, conveniently located near my new home base in Europe. It was like the universe was nudging me towards a new direction, prompting me to embrace change and chase my entrepreneurial dreams within a familiar industry.


Living the expat life in the Netherlands was incredibly fulfilling, and freelancing offered me a level of freedom I had never experienced before. Setting my own hours, managing my workload without the hassle of dealing with staff, and essentially being my own boss was incredibly liberating.


Renovation: Unleashing Creativity and Designing Dream Homes

Despite my hectic schedule, my love for interior design burned bright, especially when my husband and I decided to take on a home renovation project in Haarlem. It was a massive undertaking, involving a complete gut job, but it gave me the chance to let loose my creativity and craft our dream home from scratch.


urban chic industrial open kitchen and living with huge folding doors

This wasn't our first time diving into a home renovation adventure and leveraging smart design choices to enhance a property's value. We had tackled similar projects before, and each one brought its own set of challenges and rewards. Documenting the transformation from a neglected space to a stunningly designed home has always been a joyous and fulfilling part of the process. Watching our vision come to life has been incredibly rewarding.


Instagram Beginnings

Bringing my passion for design into the digital realm, I finally joined Instagram about 6 years ago, albeit fashionably late. At first, I didn't quite get what all the fuss was about, but my marketing background made me curious about its business potential.


woman in transitional style living room styling display cabinet

While I never saw myself turning Instagram into a career, I was fascinated by its business model and dove headfirst into uncovering its secrets. I threw myself into learning everything from growing followers to creating captivating content and honing my photography and editing skills.


Beware the Instagram Addiction

Watching my follower count climb was like a thrilling game, and I couldn't get enough of the rush it gave me. It became a personal challenge to see how I could boost engagement and grow my audience. Landing my first collaboration was a huge milestone for me—it felt amazing to have a company recognise and value my content enough to want to work with me.


I can't quite pinpoint my very first collaboration, but I remember feeling incredibly proud when it happened—maybe it was with a poster company when I had around 3000 followers.


woman on phone on blue velvet couch with exposed brick wall

Regardless, from that moment on, things just took off. I found myself landing one collaboration after another, each one more exciting than the last. While the home decor scene in the Netherlands isn't as advanced in terms of social marketing, it still brought a nice income boost to my work in the medical industry.


Instagram Reconnected me with the Interior Design Institute

At this point, the Interior Design Institute, where I got my diploma, reached out to me after seeing my work. They asked if I'd like to join their team as a tutor, and I jumped at the chance.


Even though it might seem like a big leap from pharmaceutical marketing to interior design, there are actually a lot of skills that transfer over. Things like project management, branding, and running your own business—these are all things I've had a lot of experience with, in addition to the actual design and renovation projects. So, I happily took on the role and still love guiding students today.


The Turning Point: Embracing Interior Design Full-Time

As my interior design workload kept increasing, and my contracts in the medical field started winding down, it felt like the right time to make the switch to full-time interior design work, even though it was a bit scary. And there are many different types of careers in interior design.


hotel chic tropical planterior style home office decor

Thankfully, with a bunch of projects already lined up and my husband's unwavering support, I felt ready to take the plunge. Finally, I was living my dream of working for myself in a creative field I adore, with the freedom to set my own schedule and work wherever I want.


The Valuable Lesson Instagram Taught me

Becoming an Instagram influencer was quite the journey, teaching me some valuable lessons about the power of social media. Hitting the 100k follower mark was a major thrill, but losing it later on made me realise that being an influencer isn't everything.


Recently, I wrote a blog about my obsession with Instagram metrics and how I've decided to let go of that pressure. Instead, my focus has shifted towards helping others achieve their dreams and building a platform where people can learn and find inspiration.


With a whopping 3500 students worldwide at the Interior Design Institute, tutoring keeps me on my toes every day. On top of that, I write blogs tackling interior design and decorating challenges that many people face, all while still juggling my own design and influencer projects.


Fulfilment and Freedom

Following my passions and values into a career in interior design has truly changed my life. It's given me a deep sense of fulfilment and freedom that I never thought possible.


Freelance interior design gives me a deep sense of fulfilment and freedom that I never thought possible.

With each project I take on, I'm able to express my creativity in a way that feels authentic and meaningful. It's like pouring my heart and soul into every space, creating something that inspires and uplifts others.


woman in round lazy chair, with a cup of coffee, in botanical setting

Having the freedom to pursue what truly interests me and follow my instincts has been incredibly liberating. It's allowed me to build a career that brings me joy and satisfaction each and every day.


Empowering Others

Being an interior design tutor is an absolute joy for me. I get to be a part of aspiring designers' journeys, helping them navigate their career transitions and pursue their dreams.

Sharing my experiences and knowledge with students from all over the globe is incredibly rewarding. I get to witness their growth and development firsthand, which is truly inspiring.


study with the interior design institute

Guiding them through the ins and outs of interior design, and helping them overcome challenges, fuels my passion for teaching and mentoring. Seeing my students become confident and skilled designers, ready to leave their mark on the world, is immensely fulfilling.


Empowering others to follow their passions and achieve their goals is a privilege, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their journey.


Conclusion

In wrapping up, my journey from the corporate world of pharma to the realm of freelance interior design and entrepreneurship has been nothing short of transformative, challenging, and incredibly fulfilling. By staying true to my passions, seizing opportunities, and remaining authentic to myself, I've crafted a career and lifestyle that brings me immense joy and satisfaction every single day, even though my career change to interior design has been a little unconventional.


woman high fiving dog in modern living room

If you're feeling stuck in your own career path, and take this little piece of career advice from me, just know that it's never too late to pursue what truly lights you up and create the life you've always dreamed of.


It's never too late to pursue what truly lights you up.

By the way, if you're considering diving into the world of interior design, I highly recommend checking out The Interior Design Institute. Being a freelance interior designer has been a game-changer for me, and if you sign up through my website, you'll even get a sweet discount. Trust me, it's worth it!


study with the interior design institute

Now that you've heard a snippet of my journey, I'd love to hear from you! What passions are you eager to pursue, and what steps are you taking to make them a reality? Share your thoughts in the comments below—I can't wait to connect and continue this inspiring conversation!

7 comments

7 комментариев


Гость
16 февр.

Very interesting!

Лайк

Гость
16 февр.

Very inspiring!😊

Лайк

Гость
16 февр.

Great read!

Лайк

Гость
16 февр.

Loved reading your story!! Gives me a lot of hope in my current situation. I just need to take the leap and leave the government world behind & fullfill my passion of bathroom design along with my builder partner. Thanks for the inspiration xx

Лайк
Marieke
Marieke
16 февр.
Ответ пользователю

I am so pleased to hear that! It was very daunting at first, and I didn't take the plunge before ensuring I had projects lined up, but I never looked back. :)

Лайк

Гость
15 февр.

Thank you for sharing your inspiring journey.

Лайк
Marieke
Marieke
16 февр.
Ответ пользователю

You're very welcome! I am glad you enjoyed it.

Лайк
Marieke Rijksen - Whispering Bold.jpg

Hi! Thanks for stopping by.

I am Marieke, a Dutch Australian interior designer, business executive, tutor, content creator and social media influencer.

 

Get your fix of interior design inspiration, makeovers, and fabulous DIY home projects on my blog.

I'll keep you posted!

Pick my brains.

Let the posts come to you.

Struggling with interior decisions? Book an online brainstorming session with me and turn ideas into plans.

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