Between the celebrity accounts with a million-plus followers on one side and the 8% of all accounts estimated to be bots on the other, it can seem like there's little hope for upstarts to get any traction on Instagram.
"Influencers" command fees that would be absurd even if their followings were not all suspect, sketchy, potentially "faked."
In my experience, it's easier, less expensive, more directly profitable and more fun to go after microinfluencers instead.
Microinfluencers have only a few thousand followers. They're more willing to try new things because 1) they're not inundated with spam all of the time, 2) they don't think of themselves as "professional influencers", and 3) they're climbing the ladder just like you.
You always want to surround yourself with people whose goals line up with your own. On social media, microinfluencers are those people -- you both have a small audience, and you both want to grow. Why bother paying $10,000 to an account with a million (possibly bot) followers when you can build up an organic following of people invested in your success?