Pro Spotlight Ep. 1: Daniel Araya On Why He Became a Pro and How To Succeed On Taxfyle’s Platform
Daniel Araya wanted to changed the way he viewed working as an accountant. After spending more than a decade working at firms of all sizes, he wanted an opportunity to experience the perks of the trade, but with more freedom while still bringing in a substantial amount of money each month. After joining Taxfyle as a Pro, Araya, a CPA living in Boston, soon became one of the platform’s top earners.
Q. How long have you been an accountant? And what was your past experience before joining Taxfyle?
Araya: I've been doing tax accounting now for about 10 or 11 years, I've been a CPA for about seven years now. I focus on individual taxation, so 1040s, 1041s, trusts, estates, gift tax and whatnot. Before this, I worked at a large national firm. I've worked at two national firms now, but I've also worked at, smaller mid sized regional firms and, some smaller mom and pop operations as well. So, you know, I've gotten an opportunity to see different sizes of firms see different styles of processes. And I think that's really equipped me to be able to work in a lot of different workspaces like you have to do in Taxfyle.
Q. Why did you decide to become an accountant?
Araya: Oh, that's a good question. It was actually one of my uncle's that, that recommended I go the accounting route. I was interested in business, I was interested in entrepreneurial activities so when I was going to college, I didn't really know exactly what I wanted to pursue in light of that. One of my uncle's suggested I go into accounting since it's a well respected major in the business world, [it’s] easy to find a job, and kind of gives you a foundational viewpoint into how businesses run and numbers and all that kind of stuff. So I kind of just fell into it, to be honest with you.
Q. How did you find out about Taxfyle?
Araya: Toward the end of the time that I was at the last firm I was working at, I was really unhappy working there. They worked us like dogs. I think I was working around like, 90 hours during busy season, per week. You know, Sunday's and all that kind of stuff, and just being generally miserable. And I got to kind of got to the point where I was really questioning, “Is this really the lifestyle I want to have?” And, “Is this what I want to do for the foreseeable future and the rest of my life?” And the answer to that, for me was “No.”
I was looking at my bosses and the partners there, which, you know, obviously, [if] you stay there long enough, that's sort of the general track you're going into, and I was like, “I don't really want to be them.” Like, yeah, they make a lot of money, but, they just kind of seem… I just wasn't really into it. So I was sort of searching for something different. I applied to different types of positions, stuff that wasn't even really tax related, and I was having a hard time finding something that went along with my experience, especially doing individual taxation; it's a highly niche area of taxation.
I couldn't go into a public company and work in their accounting department, because I didn't do corporate accounting, I didn't do corporate tax. So I would have had to start at the bottom rung at a company and take a 30-40% pay cut. And I'm at the time in my life where I just got married and I was like, “I'm not really trying to take a 40% pay cut, right now.” So I was just looking for different options, and I had heard about doing outsourcing as a professional. Like PwC, for example, hires CPAs, during busy season only and they pay pay a higher hourly rate, because they're only hiring for a certain amount of time. There's, there's other accounting firms that do that same type of activity.
So I actually started working at two different accounting firms. Each of them, I was only doing like, two or three days a week, working part-time, but hourly, during that busy season. So I was like, alright, I'll do this, for now, I'll make the transition out of this job, and maybe I'll be able to… I did the calculations and I was like, alright, I worked this many hours, this many days, I could probably save up this amount of money, so that I can have a stash of cash and then during the summer, when it's slow, I can decide what I want to do with my life.
Through Google searching, I actually just happened to find Taxfyle. And that sounded like, you know, “okay, I'm working at these two firms, maybe this is something that I could do for a few hours a day, and, earn some extra money.” So, it just so happened that I found Taxfyle and it was along the lines of what I was thinking at the time anyway. That being leveraging my experience and my skills, and being a contractor and making money during that, that busy season after I quit my job. So, it all just kind of aligned. And it just so happened that I stumbled upon Taxfyle.
Q. How long have you been working with Taxfyle?
Araya: So this is my third busy season that we just had, I think, so was a year and a half or a year, actually.
Q. What made you want to work with Taxfyle full-time?
Araya: So after that initial busy season, I was working and doing Taxfyle like three hours or four hours a day, I would just do an hour or two before work because like I said, I was working at those two other firms part time. And then I would do like an hour or two at night when I came home from work. And then I might throw in another few hours on a Saturday. And then when I started getting paid, I was like, “Man, I'm only doing a few hours a week, and I'm getting paid like thousands of dollars.”
I did the math on how many hours I usually like to work per week, times my average hourly rate that I was getting with Taxfyle, and I was like, “Man, I can really make this a viable thing.” So honestly after that first spring busy season that I worked at Taxfyle before the fall busy season started, based on my calculations, I was like “You know what? I think I’m going doing Taxfyle full-time.” And so it was it was kind of the math, I just did the math on how many jobs I can do per day, how many hours I can work per day, how much do I get paid per job, roughly, and multiply that by a full busy season? I was like, “Yeah, this is a way better decision working at a firm,” both money wise and timewise.
Q. How do you think that prospective pros regardless of the amount of time that they have can benefit from working with Taxfyle?
Araya: I think the benefit is really flexible is it's kind of whatever you want it to be. I was working at two firms, six days a week. And so if you only have like a couple hours a day extra and you're like, alright, you know, I want to make some extra money. This is a busy season. You can do that. You can tell whoever the job manager is, “I only have five hours a week,” or, “I only have ten hours a week,” and you can pick up jobs as you please, as long as you're working within the due date of when the job is due, whether it be three days from now, five days from now.
[If you’re like] “Alright, I can do four jobs in the next two, three days,” it can be something as simple as that. Or it can be something as simple and as flexible as [saying], “I want to do this full time, I want to work the hours that I want to work per day.”
So, I think the spectrum is really broad as to what the benefits are, and the flexibility that that is offered. I mean, you want to talk about flexibility, like I don't have a boss. I pick up as much work as I want, whenever I want, and as long as I'm doing a good job, and as long as I'm getting things done on time there’s no problem. I don't have somebody being like, “Oh, you didn't put in enough hours this week.” I don't have to do anything this whole summer.
A lot of these firms that people work at, have budgeted hours, and they'll start emailing you or the boss will pull you in and be like, “Hey, you're below your hours for this month.” And you always got to tell people, “Hey, where's the work, I have hours,” and you're always stressed, [thinking], “Oh, I'm not meeting my hours, I'm not meeting my hours,” or “I have to meet my hours this week.”
With Taxfyle, you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to pick up any work [or] you can pick up a lot of work. I think that Taxfyle matches more of what the reality of being a tax professional is. And that reality being that certain times of the year we're busy, you put in the hours during those times. And there are certain times of the year that no firm is busy. No firm is busy in July, and the beginning of August. No firm is busy in November. Those are some of the slowest months, but they still expect you to put in work and to search around for work. And sometimes it's like, “Search around for what? There's nothing to do.”
Whereas at Taxfyle you don’t have a boss. You do have to be self-motivated. And you do have to push yourself because, for example, I have stuff to do this week, and I'll be honest, I don't really actually want to do any work. I don't have to do any work. I'm doing it because my desire to make some extra money is outweighing my desire to not do work right now. But but that's the flexibility of it. Like at the end of this week I could decide, I’m too burnt out and take the next four weeks off, and I can do that. Maybe somebody will message me asking if I can do something and I can say no, free and clear. Because with Taxfyle, I’m free.
I think that's the biggest benefit about tax file, especially if you're doing it full time, is that it just offers freedom that you never, ever will experience at any firm period. I can say that, because I've worked at what, five different firms now all different sizes. And I've never experienced this type of freedom before. But like I said, if you already work at a firm, and you have a few hours here and there and you want to earn some extra cash, that’s good too. Taxfyle can do that for you as well.
Q. What makes you so successful on the platform?
Araya: Well, there’s a few things. The first is quality of work. I'm not perfect by any means. I'm not an expert, by any means on anything. But I really strive to work at a very high level; as high as I can. I try to have a high standard for myself. So, I think my work quality is high. I have a process of how I do everything.
I think I did like 460 or like 470 returns or something like that [this spring busy season]. So to keep track of all of that I have all these spreadsheets set up of like keeping track of what's in what's out when things are due. So processes are super important to be successful. And that goes for any business and even when working in a firm. If you don’t have a good process, you’re just going to drown.
The other thing that makes me successful is the amount of hours I work. I become very regimented during tax season. I wake up every morning at 4:15 because that’s when my cat wakes me up to feed him. So I just stay up. I'm like, “Well, I'm up. So what am I going to do sleep another hour and a half, and then get up again?” Like, I’m already up, let’s just work. So I work every day, I start working at 5:30 a.m., I work until 8:30 p.m. I'll take little breaks here and there. But you know, I'm consistently doing that every day, and even Saturdays. This is by choice. If you want to earn the money, you're gonna have to put in the hours, and it's like, feast or famine. All of a sudden all the drops and it’s like a waterfall of work. There's a table of money there, and you can take as much money as you can. So, for me, I'm just like, I know what it's like to work 90 hours a week. And I'm like, alright, well, I don't want to do that. Because I personally think that everybody needs at least one day off. At a lot of those big firms, people work seven days a week, I'm not into that. But I’m gonna work six days a week, and I'm gonna put in 12 to 15 hours a day. And, you know, just by putting in those hours, that alone makes you successful in how much work you can do, how much work you can pick up.
Q. For tax professionals considering Taxfyle, what advice would you give them?
Araya: I’d say if you’re considering Taxfyle, if you're not sure about it, I would say just do what I did and do two or three hours a day, during busy season. Do an hour before work, go to work, do your thing, do like an hour or two when you get back home and see what happens. And once you start seeing the money — it takes a couple of weeks because jobs have to start being submitted, and then after they're approved and stuff, then you start getting paid.
So after you do that for like two or three weeks, you'll start seeing a significant amount of money more than you thought start to roll in. And you're like, “Well, I didn't really actually work that hard, and I'm getting paid like this.” So I'd say if you're just thinking about it, and you're really hesitant, test it out. But if you're in a position where you're like, “Man, I really want to get out of this firm and I want to do something else full time; I want the freedom,” I would say jump into it.
Honestly, other than marrying my wife, this is probably one of the best decisions I've ever made. It’s invaluable in the amount of time it gives me for my freedom. And let me just be frank, if you're questioning how much money you can make, I left the last firm as a tax supervisor, and you can look at Glassdoor how much a tax supervisor makes. I make as much money now as tax managers do.