Hi Chloe. There are many great points here. The way you’ve described how people perceive higher rates is spot on, and echoes how I talk about attracting better clients.
One thing I don’t completely agree with is the point about being a specialist. It’s very important not to confuse being a specialist with being an expert. Most of the benefits you’ve mentioned of becoming a specialist are actually benefits of being at expert, and don’t require you to pigeonhole yourself into a narrow range of skills or just a few industries.
I’ve found quite clearly in my career that “T shaped” freelancers with one or two areas of deep expertise, supported by a very broad range of generalist skills and experience offer by far the most value to clients, especially when they are small to medium sized business who don’t have the capacity to build a team of specialists. Then you can act more like a “product designer” and help steer the creative endevour through its entire cycle and not just jump in for you siloed specialist role.
No doubt, expertise is vital to freelance success, and it justifies the all important rate increase. But don’t become an expert at the expense of losing those supportive generalist skills that round you out into a more valuable asset to your clients.